Works by Viktor Ullmann, Robert Lannoy, Marius Flothuis and Jozef Kropinski
Francesco Lotoro (piano) and friends
KZMUSIK CD8 232525
reviewed by Neville Cohn
Marius Flothuis Viktor Ullmann
Although the greater part by far of this compact disc series is devoted to music written by composers who perished while incarcerated in nazi concentration camps, a number of musicians survived the camps and went on to productive musical lives.
One of these is Marius Flothuis who, initially a music critic, was also assistant artistic director of Amsterdam’s famous Concertgebouw Orchestra in 1942 when he was deported to Amersfoort before being transported to the notorious Sachsenhausen concentration camp. Flothuis died in 2001 in Amsterdam.
He wrote a number of works while in the camps, such as his piano duets opus 21 and a sonata for solo violin. But it is his Sonata da camera for flute and piano that provides some of the most beguiling listening with flautist Pasquale Rinaldi and Lotoro (piano) in excellent fettle throughout. I particularly liked the beautifully expressive stream of mellow flute tone in the opening cadenza – and the plaintive quality of the second movement is finely evoked by both players. The brilliance of the concluding rondo is a fine foil for the melancholy Lamento which precedes it.
Another survivor was Robert Lannoy who died as recently as 1979 in Lille. Conscripted into the French army, he became a POW in Czechoslovakia, the Ukraine and Stalag XVIIB in Austria. He made numerous escape attempts but they were all foiled. After the war, he produced a large body of work in his native France. Lannoy’s Berceuse comes across in rather too heavy-footed a way for a lullaby, an impression reinforced by a surfeit of tremolo from the piano.
Berlin-born Josef Kropinski survived Buchenwald and lived on until 1970. He was a prolific composer. Pianist Francesco Lotoro, who works tirelessly to place on disc as much music as possible which was written in confinement, has painstakingly reconstructed fragments of 14 short piano pieces which include three each of mazurkas and tangos. The pieces are most musically played but melodically, harmonically and style-wise they are unremarkable, formulaic and predictable and have little intrinsic worth. But, as with all music in this series, these keyboard miniatures cry out for recognition as music that came into being in uniquely terrible and terrifying circumstances.
Kropinski, incidentally, was astonishingly prolific; his output includes more than 300 songs as well as string quartets and much else for piano solo.
Lotoro brings a great deal of energy to a piano version of the overture to Ullmann’s opera Don Quixote Dances the Fandango. The orchestral score is lost, so we have to be content with a piano reduction that survived the camps. There is a great deal of rather noisy tremolo in this intensely dramatic piece. There’s also a tantalisingly brief fragment from a projected two-act opera about Joan of Arc – and a dozen lieder which make up Der Mensch und sein Tag. Angelo de Leonardis and Lotoro take us into a world of deep emotion here but for those who are not German-speaking, a translation of the text into English would have been most helpful. Certainly, it would have made the listening experience that much more meaningful.