Naxos' release features three works commissioned by Music of Remembrance, the Seattle-based ensemble and organization dedicated to music commemorating the victims and survivors of the Holocaust. American composer Paul Schoenfield (born 1947) is represented by two song cycles for mezzo-soprano, baritone, and chamber ensemble. Camp Songs is based on the works of Polish journalist and songwriter Aleksander Kulisiewicz. Schoenfield uses English translations of Kulisiewicz's very dark and sometimes gruesome texts, as well as some of his melodies written when he was a prisoner at Sachsenhausen as the basis for the songs, which show the influence of Klezmer as well as Kurt Weill. The ironic flippancy of Kulisiewicz's grim texts combined with Schoenfield's grotesquely skewed lyricism makes for a chilling commentary on life in the camps. Ghetto Songs, set to Yiddish texts by Polish folk singer and actor Mordecai Gebirtig, are devoid of irony; they are the earnest cries of a man trapped in a world gone mad, and the evocative music has an appropriately desperate urgency. Gerard Schwarz (born 1947) wrote Rudolf and Jeanette in memory of his grandparents, who were killed in a camp in 1942. The evocative tone poem focuses on their life rather than their death and paints a delicate and wistful picture of their relationship. Mezzo-soprano Angela Niederloh, baritones Erich Parce and Morgan Smith, and the instrumentalists of Music of Remembrance (conducted by Schwarz in his own piece) perform with passion and commitment. Naxos' sound is present and natural.
AllMusic Review by Stephen Eddins