Thursday, October 22, 2009

Encyclopedia of Concentration Camp Composers

KZ Musik is in the process of issuing a comprehensive CD series covering music written from 1933 to 1945, the Encyclopedia of Music Composed in Concentration Camps. I have been listening to their sixth volume and it is a very moving experience. It the midst of one of the most evil series of actions in the history of the world, the human spirit asserts itself here with eleven composers who refused to be spiritually defeated.

The courage of these musicians should serve as a model for all of us today. Whether the compositions are absolute classics or not is moot. The fact of their existence demands that they be heard, not forgotten, and that they be an active part of the cultural heritage of the 20th century.

The music is noble and filled with a strength that goes beyond styles and fashions. The compositions in Volume 6 include the solo vocal cantation-style works of Josef Pinkhof, William Hilsley's haunting "Fantasia on Provencal Christmas Carol," songs for voice and piano, solo piano pieces, chamber works.

Each volume contains an informative booklet.

It is music that on one level is hard to listen to. What monstrosity let this happen? But ultimately these composers were writing the music in the hopes that we and their God might hear. These are like musical messages in a bottle, for us and the generations to follow. Do not forget our sufferings, they seem to be saying. If we can write beautiful music under such traumatically harrowing conditions, then you have no excuse. Music must flourish, musicians must be heard. If not civilization does not stand a chance on this earth.

Getting at least one of these CDs and listening is a symbolic act of solidarity with those victims of a world gone criminally insane. And the music is worthwhile.

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