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Composers of the Holocaust

"It's been a long time since I stopped patting the cat in mid-stroke to listen to every word of a folk song. That happened with this collection'sTsen Brider ("Ten Brothers"), sung by Robert Paul Abelson. It is a song about ten brothers being led to the gas chambers and it send shivers through me. The other songs vary widely in themes and styles: The sweetly lyrical Shtil, di Nakht iz Oysgeshternt is about a female partisan who disables an enemy caravan with one shot. Isabelle Ganz sings it (and three others), accompanied on piano in an echoey room, which unintentionally imparts an extemporaneous recital aura. Ten years ago, during the resurgence of interest in Holocaust composers, most recordings featured the instrumental works of composers Erwin Schulhoff, Gideon Klein, and Pavel Haas; few, if any, included songs of sorrow and resistance. Schulhoff's barbed and ironic Violin Sonata and Haas' doleful Suite for Oboe and Piano are incorporated here with splendid renditions. A few songs are arrangements of older ones, such as Klein's Wiegenlied, but most are original works by composers and writers whose careers were cut short by the Nazis. For example, composer Misha Veksler and writer Leyb Rozenthal collaborated on Yisrolik, a courageous piece about an orphan selling goods in the street. Producer Marnie Hall has assembled the definitive selection of these rare works, all well documented in the accompanying booklet. Unnecessarily, she reprises Zog Nit Keynmol, a militant marching song, at the end. While I appreciate why she reiterated its statement, I regret that she didn't use the space to include one more of these stirring songs." Peter Bates, Stylus, May 2005 Pt. 2 of 2.

Rated One of the best recordings of the year by George Robinson of Jewish Week. "The dozen composers represented on this excellent Downtown Music Productions recording are the victims of history in a way that almost no other composers can claim. Each died in the Shoah and, with the notable exceptions of Mordecai Gebertig and Ervin Schulhoff, the vast majority of their output was destroyed. Recordings such as this one perform a service that goes beyond the realm of musical history. That said, most of the music here is of more than historical interest, and the performances under Mimi Stern-Wolfe's baton are excellent. Understandably, a dark and brooding record, but well worth hearing." (five-star rating) Jewish Week. "

Mimi Stern-Wolfe deserves a great deal of praise for putting together a very moving recording that brings forth much emotion and thought. The two talented [vocal] soloists, Robert Abelson, baritone, and Isabelle Ganz, lyric mezzo-soprano, sing with great feeling for the meaning of the lyrics as well as the music. In several of the songs some stanzas are sung in English as well as in the original language." Jewish Currents.

"Impressive" Aufbau. "Less than 15 minutes long, [Haas] makes a striking impression ... I have only praise for all the participants in this program, especially the singers, who do not milk their songs. The voices are just right--eloquent but not operatic. I unhesitatingly recommend this; it honors a group of brave men and women who used their musical gifts to try to mitigate their and their people's fate." Moses, American Record Guide.

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