Friday, 5 September 2014

Edinburgh Festival, 2014 - Part 1

I attended these performances at the Edinburgh Festival in August 2014. This is 'emotion recollected in tranquility, since I saw them a week ago, and have only now found time to write them up.

Monday 25 August   Queen's Hall

Music from Terezienstadt/Terezin

Anne-Sofie von Otter      mezzo-soprano
Daniel Hope                    violin
Bengt Forsberg               piano
Bebe Risenfors                accordion/double bass/guitar

The tragedy of Terezin - artistic flowering in defiance of the wretched circumstances.The  Nazis used this as propaganda, but, as a survivor later stated - 'they knew they were going to kill us anyway, so they just let us get on with it - dancing under the gallows'. It is heart-breaking to reflect how many gifted artists, musicians and writers were  cut off in their prime, 

Anne Sofie von Otter has also made a CD commemorating the musicians of Terezin - the programme was a selection of the music written by the inmates, mainly songs. but also some extracts of chamber music. I particular liked the Serenade for Violin and Piano by Robert Dauber (1922-1945).

The group also performed music by the best-known inmates of Terezin, Viktor Ullmann and Pavel Haas, both murdered by the Nazis in 1944.  I was especially impressed by Ullmann's STURMLIED, a setting of a poem by Ricarda Huch, with a very Schumann-like piano postlude. I have included a clip of Susanna Proskura singing this, as there doesn't appear to be one of Anne-Sofie von Otter.

Another piece that particular struck most of the audience was the bitterly ironic anonymous TEREZIN-LIED, based on a song from Emmerich Kalman's Countess Maritza, relating how everyone enjoys their life in their beloved Theresienstadt.....

Finally, I will draw attention to the beautifully simple and moving songs by Ilse Weber 1903-1944. The recital started with the heart-rending ICH WANDRE DURCH THERESIENSTADT. (This version is sung by Bente Kahan, and has English subtitles).

And here is Anne Sofie von Otter singing Weber's WIEGALA - a lullaby which she is said to have sung as she voluntarily accompanied the children she was caring for on their final journey to Auschwitz.