In the nineties of the last century the (once very renowned) classical music label Decca started an unsurpassed series ‘Entartete Musik’. Under the supervision of producer Michael Haas, works were recorded by composers who were persecuted by the Nazis, many of whom were murdered in concentration camps and then ignored and even forgotten for decades.
The series didn’t last long. Sales figures were disappointing, Haas was fired, and most of those CDs are now out of print.
Every true fan of film classics knows the music of Franz Waxman. His compositions for Rebecca, Sunset Boulevard and A Place in the Sun, among others, have earned him numerous Oscar nominations and twice he was actually awarded the statuette.
For Humoresque by Jean Negulesco, starring Joan Crawford and John Garfield, he composed an outright hit: ‘Carmen Fantasie’ (played in the film by Isaac Stern), a virtuoso piece for violin and orchestra that is ubiquitous in concert halls and on recordings.
However, few people know that he has also composed ‘serious’ music. It is simply ignored.
Zeisl’s name is almost completely forgotten nowadays. Harmonia Mundi once recorded some of his chamber music works, but these recordings too have since disappeared from the catalogue. Both composers were contemporaries with a similar fate, who ended up in Hollywood on the run from the Nazis. If their respective fates are similar, their music in no way is.
The song cycle Das Lied von Terezín consists of eight poems, written by Czech children between the ages of 12 and 16 during their stay in the Theresienstadt concentration camp.
Deeply affected by the fate of these children, Waxman composed a very moving piece of music in 1965 that, in terms of its power of expression, can be compared to Schoenberg’s A Survivor from Warsaw. The majority is written in the twelve-tone technique, but there is also a clear influence of Zemlinsky (‘Der Garten’) and in ‘Dachbodenkoncert in einer alten Schule’ a motive from Beethoven’s Mondscheinsonate is quoted. The whole is performed very movingly by the two choirs and the mezzo-soprano Della Jones.
Eric Zeisl’s Requiem Ebraico is based on Psalm 92 and is dedicated to the composer’s father and ‘all the victims of the Jewish tragedy in Europe’. Zeisl’s music is very melodic and strongly influenced by Jewish and Hebrew themes. It is unbelievable that it is not performed more frequently!
Franz Waxman: The Song of Terezín
Eric Zeisl: Requiem Ebraico
Deborah Riedel, Della Jones, Michael Kraus
Rundfunk-kinderchor Berlin, Rundfunkchor Berlin, Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin conducted by Lawrence Foster (Decca 4602112)
Translated with http://www.Deep