lunes, julio 21, 2008

The forbidden sounds

More than a decade ago music lovers had access to a fascinating and very necessary recording project. It was called "Entartete Musik" ("Degenerate Music") , the epithet Hitler and Goebbels gave to music written by Jews or by non-Jews that didn't correspond to the dictates of National Socialism, which corresponded (oh paradox) to those of Communism, theoretically opposed: simple, melodic music at the service of the masses. In fact, Stalinist and Hitlerist music differed little, in their directness and simplicity being quite behind the evolution of music history. Great composers forced to conform did a decent job in political works written under duress in Stalin's regime (Shostakovich, Prokofiev in some of their scores), but little or nothing has surfaced of the work of "Hitlerist" composers, unless you think (I don't) that Carl Orff in "Carmina Burana" was an example. I believe in documentation, and I think that a selection of forgotten "Hitlerist" music would be interesting to know, so that with 60 or 70 years of "telescoped" vision we could have a right to judge them, as we can with films of that period (there have been cycles at the MALBA of films of the Hitler period). I think that good history provides honest documentation on every side. And I say it as an absolute anti-Hitler and –Stalin person.

The recorded series I mentioned was a revelation, for we got to know, e..g., such interesting composers as Schulhoff, Ullmann, Neuenfels and Eisler. But none of that was heard in our concerts. The gap has been finally filled with a series of AMIJAI concerts called "The forbidden sounds" , brilliantly planned and conceived by Haydée Francia and Barbara Civita. I consider them among the outsanding experiences of the year and I'm sorry I could attend only two of the four. They were excellent, as I suppose with a lot of confidence were the others.

In the first night carefully chosen first-rate players gave us what I believe was a total programme of premieres, although this wasn't specified. It was called Prague/Terezin and a terrible fact affected all six composers: they all died in concentration camps. But their music doesn't show it; the pieces included are all non-narrative and generally not anguished. Gideon Klein was a Moravian who lived only 26 years (1919-45); His very interesting String Trio was written at Terezin, a concentration camp 60 km from Prague; only two weeks after completion in 1944 he was sent to Auschwitz; the music is beautifully made, with valid ideas well developed in a Neoclassical style. Luis Roggero (violin), Elizabeth Ridolfi (viola) and María Eugenia Castro (cello) gave a limpid performance. Viktor Ullmann is known here through his opera "The Emperor of Atlantis", a fascinating work offered many times by the Colón Chamber Opera; in fact its coruscating contents sent both musician and librettist to Auschwitz. His Piano Sonata No.5 is different, a rather diffuse Neoclassical work of little dramatic significance written at Terezin; it was cleanly played by Susana Kasakoff. Erwin Schulhoff (1894-1942) produced a very considerable body of work, generally combining a Neoclassic style with jazz influences. This concert included two of his scores: Divertimento for oboe, clarinet and bassoon (1927), an imaginative and charming piece in seven movements , beautifully played by Rubén Albornoz, Pablo Timenthal and Andrea Merenzon; and his "Hot Sonata" for alto sax and piano (1930), full of character, played with real swing by María Noel Luzardo and Fernando Pérez.

The Suite op.17 for oboe and piano (1939) by Pavel Haas (1899-1944) is pleasant and well written; it was played rather reticently by Natalia Silipo and brilliantly by Pérez. Finally, an attractive "Theme and variations" for string quartet (1936) by Hans Krása (1899-1944) in a rather Postromantic mood was very well played by Roggero, Roberto Calomarde, Ridolfi and Castro.

I couldn't hear the second concert, called Berlin, were the main score was Schreker's Chamber Symphony and the programme included works by Mendelssohn, Krenek and Hindemith. The third was dedicated mainly to the Vienna School. It started with Mahler only chamber work, his Quartet movement for piano and strings, moody , rather Schumannian music written at 18-years-old, nicely played by Haydée Seibert (violin), Verónica D'Amore (viola), Castro (cello) and Alicia Belleville (piano). Then we had magisterial interpretations by Antonio Formaro of two seminal pieces by Schoenberg (6 small pieces op.19) and Berg (Sonata op.1), clearly epigrammatic atonal 1911 music the first and extreme Postromantic the second, written in 1908-9. In the same concentrated style as Schoenberg's op. 19, we heard Webern's 1910 Four pieces for violin and piano, played very professionally by Seibert and Belleville. Finally, Alexander von Zemlinsky's Trio op.3 (1896), attractively Postromantic, was played with distinction by Matías Tchicourel (clarinet), Castro (cello) and Agustina Herrera (piano).

I was particularly sorry to miss the fascinating fourth concert, "The cabaret", where, produced by Daniel Suárez Marzal, Víctor Torres sang Schoenberg's "Brettl-Lieder", Susanna Moncayo did pieces by Svenk, A. Strauss, Kálmán, Roman and Raymond, and Alejandro Meerapfel sang Berlin cabaret songs by Eisler, Dessau, Hollander and Weill.

There was an important complement to this series, a valuable concert by the National Symphony under Pedro Calderón, where, apart from Torres's fine singing of Mahler's "Kindertotenlieder" (a bit weak in the low tones), we heard premieres from Schreker, Eisler and Schulhoff at the Facultad de Derecho (UBA). Franz Schreker' "Fantastic Overture" (1903-4) is Postromantic and diffuse; Hanns Eisler (1898-1962) extracted the iconoclastic Suite op. 23 from his music for the film "Opus III" by Walter Rutmannn; it's fun to hear. Schulhoff's First Symphony (1925) is a serious, well-wrought score. All was played and conducted with commitment.

For Buenos Aires Herald

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