Soprano Caroline Helton has put together an intriguing program of music by European Jewish composers whose lives were upended by the Holocaust. The program is attractively diverse and includes songs written by German, Austrian, Czech, and French composers who were compelled to leave their homes for England, the United States, or Canada as the forces of National Socialism engulfed much of continental Europe. The music spans almost 80 years, from the early songs of Robert Kahn, written in the 1890s to Oskar Morawetz's From the Diary of Anne Frank, premiered in Toronto in 1970. The pieces are stylistically diverse, ranging from the lyrical post-Romanticism of the songs by Kahn, Kurt Weill, and Erich Korngold to the astringent modernism of Morawetz's ambitious 18-minute setting. The music recorded here does not reflect a specifically Jewish cultural identity, meaning in general the use of folk traditions associated with Eastern European Jewish communities, but the five songs from Milhaud's Poëmes juifs, Op. 34, composed in 1916, use anonymous texts with Jewish themes. The highlight of the program is Korngold's inventive and generously melodic five-song cycle, Unvergänglichkeit (Immortality), Op. 27, written in 1934. Its depth and substance are sad reminders that Korngold's forced exile meant the end of his career as a composer of "serious" classical music. Also especially memorable is Weill's Youkali from 1933, a melancholy "tango habanera" written in the cabaret style characteristic of his collaborations with Bertolt Brecht. Pianist Kathryn Goodson accompanies Helton on this appealing release.
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AllMusic Review by All Music Guide
|Unvergänglichkeit, Op. 27|
|Poëmes Juifs, Op. 34|