WGBH Radio WGBH Radio theclassicalstation.org

Terezin | Theresienstadt

Release Date: 03/25/2008 
Label:  Deutsche Grammophon   Catalog #: 001080302   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Ilse WeberKarel ŠvenkAdolf StraussAnonymous,   ... 
Performer:  Bengt ForsbergBebe RisenforsAnne Sofie von OtterBebe Risenfors,   ... 
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 12 Mins. 

This title is currently unavailable.

Notes and Editorial Reviews

The idea for this CD came as a result of Anne Sofie von Otter being asked to sing at the International Forum on the Holocaust in Stockholm in 2000. She was given a selection of songs to look at by the Terezin Chamber Music Foundation and, as a result, discovered works she had not come across before which made a profound impression upon her. She felt hugely moved by the thoughts of the terrifying situation in which people who had been arrested were herded to the ghetto city of Terezin in Northern Bohemia and whose only 'crime' was their Jewish heritage. She understood how the creation of music, art, theatre and literature and other art forms afforded them a few precious moments of serenity and calm. This was against the background of the Read more harsh regime within the city’s walls and the almost daily dispatch of numbers of the inmates to their deaths in the gas chambers of Auschwitz and other concentration camps. To quote the liner notes she says: "We must never be allowed to forget’ has been said many times before, but it must continue to be said again and again. Genocide and persecution are still happening in the world around us every day. This project reflects my sincere wish to commemorate those who created music under conditions of unthinkable misery and who so tragically lost their lives."

I would like to dedicate this review to the memory of my friend and work colleague for 10 years Marlies Fulder who lost both her parents in concentration camps where they were sent from Terezin.

Only seven of the fifteen sections on this disc involve Anne Sofie von Otter. This shows how much she was committed to the project to give greater exposure to those wonderful composers whose lives were so cruelly cut short in their prime. It also gives us a glimpse of the huge talent that we could have enjoyed for so much longer had the Nazis not launched their vicious campaign to eliminate the Jewish race in its entirety.

Nine named composers plus one whose name is unknown are represented here, all but two of whom perished in concentration camps where they were sent from Terezin. Erwin Schulhoff was sent directly to the concentration camp in Würzburg where he died in 1942. Martin Roman survived to live until 1996. All of them suffered by being banned from performing or being performed before the fateful day when they were sent away. This makes the events which occurred at Terezin all the more cynical since it was there that the Nazis perpetrated their most calculated lie by eventually allowing, even encouraging composing, writing, art and theatre performances in order to fool the world into believing that, as the Nazi propaganda had it, "The Third Reich gives the Jews a City". They invited personalities and finally the International Red Cross to visit Terezin to see for themselves how "merry musicians" played café concerts and how full-blown operas and symphony concerts were presented, poets read their own poems, plays were put on and paintings were exhibited, many by the hundreds of children incarcerated there. The true feelings and inspiration behind the wonderful works created, amid the terrible conditions that pertained there in which the inmates were being starved with only the most meagre of rations, were crystallised by the composer Victor Ullmann. In his essay "Goethe and the Ghetto" he wrote "we did not simply sit down by the rivers of Babylon and weep but evinced a desire to produce art that was entirely commensurate with our will to live". An example of the crude cynicism involved was the putting on of Hans Krása's children's opera Brundibar which played there many times with different casts of children since almost immediately after each performance the current cast was dispatched to the gas chambers of Auschwitz. Yet after its first public performance in Prague Krása, together with the opera's director and son plus the cast were sent off to Terezin and the work was banned from public performance.

It is therefore against this background of history that this disc should be heard which is full of pathos yet with that inextinguishable faith in humanity shining through. In other words the creation of their art there was a supreme act of defiance in the face of the Nazis’ efforts to erase the works of Jewish composers, writers and artists.

The disc begins with one four songs written by Ilse Weber (1903-1944), who wrote more than 60 poems whilst in Terezin. She set many of them to music, accompanying herself on guitar whilst she made her night rounds as a nurse. Ilse Weber volunteered to go to her death in the gas chambers together with the sick children from Terezin. Eyewitness accounts reported that in there she sang them her song Wiegala (Lullaby) (track 9). Her songs with their simplicity and inward regret are among the most poignant written in Terezin. Her first song "I wander through Theresienstadt" ends "...when will our suffering end, when shall we again be free?" Sadly that was never to be. Karel Švenk (1917-1945) treats his laments with a touch of irony and in the first of his two songs on this disc Under an umbrella writes "...even in the strongest gale, one of life’s losers retains a spark of hope, and so I/we can laugh in the rain!” and in the second Anything goes! "Anything goes, with good will, we will join hands, and at the ruins of the ghetto we will laugh".

Hans Krása, was sent to Auschwitz on the same day as Victor Ullmann and Pavel Haas and all three were gassed immediately on arrival. He is represented here by three songs after words by Arthur Rimbaud. They are easily recognizable as his, such is his cheeky style full of quirky rhythms which reappear in one of his string quartets. Victor Ullmann was an internationally celebrated composer when the Nazis marched into Czechoslovakia on 15 March 1939. Overnight he became a "subhuman creature unworthy of existence" whose works immediately vanished from the stage. He was prevented from appearing in public any longer. His songs Beryozkele, Clere Vénus, On voit mourir and Je vis, je meurs are proof of his musical abilities and give a glimpse of what was lost when he was murdered. Pavel Haas was expressly sent to Terezin as a member of a team designated with the task of building up the camp's cultural credentials and suffered an almost complete breakdown only coming out if it with the help of other musicians. One of his best-known compositions, apart from his three string quartets, including the wonderful String Quartet No.2 From the Monkey Mountains, is his Four Songs on Chinese Poetry which incorporates a leitmotif of the St. Wenceslas Chorale to symbolize his Czech homeland.

The other composers whose music features on this disc are Adolf Strauss, Martin Roman and Carlo Taube who left behind a single song when he was sent to Auschwitz with his wife and young son, all three of whom were gassed in the autumn of 1944. We do not know the name of the writer who took a famous song from Emmerich Kalman’s Countess Maritza and made a parody of it with the words "Yes, in Terezin we take life just as it comes". Karel Švenk’s song Anything goes, with good will became the camp’s anthem while Martin Roman’s We’re riding on wooden horses allowed the inmates a brief respite from their privations and to indulge their memories of happier times in childhood. Adolf Strauss’s tango affirms I know for certain that I shall see you again! The disc finishes with Erwin Schulhoff's Sonata for solo violin played brilliantly by Daniel Hope. His devotion to Schulhoff’s music will, it is hoped, bring forth more discs of his music. Hope writes "...What especially fascinates me are the passion and will to survive that speak from this music". As stated above Schulhoff was the only composer on the disc whose fate was not tied up with Terezin. As a communist as well as a Jew he was sent directly to the concentration camp at Würzburg in Bavaria.

This disc is an absolute must for anyone interested in sampling music by those whose lives were cruelly cut short by a monstrous ideology, and who would have made further hugely important contributions to the music of the 20th century. All the songs are wonderfully sung by Anne Sofie von Otter and Christian Gerhaher and accompanied by Bengt Forsberg and others. This is my nomination for Disc of the Year without reservation.

Steve Arloff - MusicWeb International
Read less

Works on This Recording

Ich wandre durch Theresienstadt by Ilse Weber
Performer:  Bengt Forsberg (Piano), Bebe Risenfors (Baritone), Bengt Forsberg (Accordion),
Anne Sofie von Otter (Mezzo Soprano), Bebe Risenfors (Accordion)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: Terezín, Czechoslova 
Length: 2 Minutes 38 Secs. 
Pod dešnikem by Karel Švenk
Performer:  Anne Sofie von Otter (Mezzo Soprano), Bengt Forsberg (Piano), Bebe Risenfors (Accordion)
Všechno jde! by Karel Švenk
Performer:  Anne Sofie von Otter (Mezzo Soprano), Bengt Forsberg (Piano), Bebe Risenfors (Accordion)
Und der Regen rinnt by Ilse Weber
Performer:  Bengt Forsberg (Double Bass), Bebe Risenfors (Baritone), Anne Sofie von Otter (Mezzo Soprano),
Bengt Forsberg (Piano), Bebe Risenfors (Guitar)
Period: 20th Century 
Length: 1 Minutes 47 Secs. 
Ich weiss bestimmt, ich werd dich wiedersehen! by Adolf Strauss
Performer:  Anne Sofie von Otter (Mezzo Soprano), Bengt Forsberg (Piano)
Terezin lied by Anonymous
Performer:  Gerold Huber (Piano), Ib Hausmann (Clarinet), Christian Gerhaher (Baritone)
Length: 2 Minutes 55 Secs. 
Notes: Set to a melody from the operetta Gräfin Maritza by Emmerich Kálmán 
Karussell: Wir reiten auf hölzenen Pferden by Martin Roman
Performer:  Anne Sofie von Otter (Mezzo Soprano), Bengt Forsberg (Piano)
Wiegala by Ilse Weber
Performer:  Anne Sofie von Otter (Mezzo Soprano), Bengt Forsberg (Piano), Bengt Forsberg (Guitar)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: Terezín, Czechoslova 
Length: 2 Minutes 35 Secs. 
Songs (3) after poems by Arthur Rimbaud: Čtyřverší by Hans Krása
Performer:  Christian Gerhaher (Baritone), Philip Dukes (Viola), Josephine Knight (Cello)
Songs (3) after poems by Arthur Rimbaud: Vzrušení by Hans Krása
Performer:  Christian Gerhaher (Baritone), Philip Dukes (Viola), Jonathan Knight (Cello)
Songs (3) after poems by Arthur Rimbaud: Přátelé by Hans Krása
Performer:  Christian Gerhaher (Baritone), Philip Dukes (Viola), Josephine Knight (Cello)
Ein Jüdisches Kind by Carlo S. Taube
Performer:  Anne Sofie von Otter (Mezzo Soprano), Bengt Forsberg (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1942; Terezín, Czechoslova 
Jiddische Lieder (3), Op. 53 "Brezulinka": Berjoskele by Viktor Ullmann
Performer:  Anne Sofie von Otter (Mezzo Soprano), Bengt Forsberg (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1944; Terezín, Czech Repub 
Sonnets (6) de Louďze Labé, Op. 34: Clere Vénus by Viktor Ullmann
Performer:  Anne Sofie von Otter (Mezzo Soprano), Bengt Forsberg (Piano)
Sonnets (6) de Louďze Labé, Op. 34: On voit mourir by Viktor Ullmann
Performer:  Anne Sofie von Otter (Mezzo Soprano), Bengt Forsberg (Piano)
Sonnets (6) de Louďze Labé, Op. 34: Je vis, je meurs by Viktor Ullmann
Performer:  Anne Sofie von Otter (Mezzo Soprano), Bengt Forsberg (Piano)
Songs (4) on Chinese Poetry: Zaslech jsem divoké husy by Pavel Haas
Performer:  Christian Gerhaher (Baritone), Ib Hausmann (Clarinet)
Songs (4) on Chinese Poetry: V bambusovém haji by Pavel Haas
Performer:  Christian Gerhaher (Baritone)
Songs (4) on Chinese Poetry: Daleko měsic je domova by Pavel Haas
Performer:  Christian Gerhaher (Baritone)
Songs (4) on Chinese Poetry: Probděná noc by Pavel Haas
Performer:  Christian Gerhaher (Baritone)
Sonata for Violin solo by Erwin Schulhoff
Performer:  Daniel Hope (Violin)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1927 
Ade, Kamerad! by Ilse Weber
Performer:  Gerold Huber (Piano), Christian Gerhaher (Baritone)
Period: 20th Century 
Length: 2 Minutes 22 Secs. 

Customer Reviews

Average Customer Review:  3 Customer Reviews )
 Everyone Should Hear This Album.... October 12, 2012 By S. Martorella (E GREENWICH, RI) See All My Reviews "This may be one of the most important albums to be produced in this past decade, and everyone should hear it. Anne Sophie von Otter and her friends have collaborated to produce music from composers of the Terezin camp, and have done so in a way in which the composers, the music, the victims of the Nazi death camps, and her own family heritage are honored by music that is filled with a love of life even in the face of death. The music is a mix of classical composition and more popular folk-styled song. The performances are true to the authentic character of the music, and the artists never let their own virtuosity get in the way of that. These performances are unique, poignant, and beautiful in and of themselves, but when one stops and reflects on the story in history that they tell, the emotional impact is overwhelming. The choice and variety of style of the selections, the juxtaposition of the serious and the light form a chapter of Holocaust history that should be read and heard by all. Listen...Remember...Cry a little, or a lot...and be inspired to help make a better world." Report Abuse
 A REMINDER October 11, 2012 By M. Brownstein (Wernersville, PA) See All My Reviews "This album of music and poetry, miraculously preserved from the Holocaust makes one remember that the evil of the Gas Chambers should demand NEVER AGAIN," Report Abuse
 Poignant works October 10, 2012 By V. Rufino (Succasunna, NJ) See All My Reviews "The music on this disc consists primarily of vocal music written by composers whose names will not be familiar to you. Most haunting is the fact that their music survives, which reminds us of the cruel fact that a political regime used the arts to hide the truth. The performances are beautifully realized, and the accompanying booklet contains the lyrics in the original languages and in English translation. The genres are very varied, ranging from Romantic, klemzmer-like folk, to Expressionism, but not true dodecaphonic. I purchased this disc to familiarize myself with music from Terezin for a presentation at my college commemorating Kristallnacht." Report Abuse
Review This Title