Norbert Glanzberg - Holocaust Lieder

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NORBERT GLANZBERG - HOLOCAUST LIEDER - Suite Yiddish - Roman Trekel (Baritone) - Daniel Klajner (Conductor) - Mulhouse Symphony Orchestra - Hybrid SACD - 0760623158860 - MDG 9011588

Unless you are an old movie buff or an ardent fan of the 'French chansons', then the name of Norbert Glanzberg (1910-2001) will be unfamiliar to you. He was born in Poland and raised in Bavaria. As a teenager and upon meeting Richard Strauss, he vowed to become a conductor and composer. In his early twenties, he was employed as composer for a German movie studio, but with the advent of the war he fled to Paris where he stayed for many years and eventually became an accompanist for many of the stars of that period. During that period he wrote film scores, musicals, and many songs for Edith Piaf and Yves Montand, and made a good life for himself doing that. But had he been able to remain in Germany during all that time, he might have become a serious contender in the world of 20th century composers, and if the Holocaust Lieder are any indication, the odds of him achieving just that were strong indeed.

Only after he retired from his career in France did he have time to re-visit his aspirations to be a serious composer, and in 1983, near the end of his life, he composed this cycle of songs based on a collection of poems called Der Tod ist ein Meister aus Deutschland (Death is a Master from Germany). These poems were written by concentration camp prisoners, and with titles like 'The Oven of Lublin', 'Transport', 'Nocturnal Thoughts' and 'The Last Epiphany' you know the subject matter is bleak and grim. Norbert Glanzberg managed not only to write great music to underpin these poems, but he did so in a way as to give each and every one of them its own character, its own ethos. The images depicted in these poems, from mothers singing their children to sleep, being transported in trains, the machinery of extermination, to saying farewell, etc ... is all very well reflected within every note of the music. These lieder stand head to head next to the efforts of Hugo Wolf or Gustav Mahler. The baritone Roman Trekel, who has been part of the opera studio of the Deutsche Staatsoper in Berlin since 1988, sings all of these with distinction, a powerful and flexible voice, and re-inforces their individuality by adding to them his own perspective and mind-set.

The Suite Yiddish, composed a year later, is much lighter musical fare, and brings forward the cinematic and cosmopolitan qualities of Glanzberg. They were written for two pianos, but eventually orchestrated by Frederic Chaslin. Conductor Daniel Klajner and the Mulhouse Symphony Orchestra certainly play this work with the right atmosphere and color, and bring to the fore the memories of songs from Glanzberg's childhood.

Many thanks to MDG for recording yet another neglected composer and breathing new life in these profound and inspired songs. This recording is one of MDG's 2+2+2 productions, which makes it multi-format. It is playable in a CD player, DVD-video, DVD-audio and SACD players. So you can enjoy the superb sound quality anyway you prefer.

Jean-Yves Duperron