Mystic Chords of Genocide: Music of the Holocaust. Susan Eischeid, oboe, Lyle Indergaard, piano, Martha Malone, soprano, & David Lee Johnson, baritone. aca Digital CM20069 (43:09); ©2001. $16.95; available for $15 through August 3 at Eastern Music Festival events.
This is one of the fruits of oboist Susan Eischeid's admirable fifteen-year-long pursuit of and devotion to the preservation and performance of music from this most painful period in the history of mankind, now fading all too quickly from memory. It includes music by both victims and survivors of the ghettos and camps, by famous, obscure, and anonymous composers. The works all have interesting sources, inspirations and histories. For example, the concluding "Three Warsaw Polonaises" were on a scrap of paper found in the mud at Auschwitz/Birkenau by the camp's men's orchestra conductor, Szymon Laks, who washed it, hung it up to dry, arranged the tunes for various instrumentations and had them performed in the camp, and then recreated them from memory for piano solo after the war. Eischeid's concise and excellent booklet notes give equivalent details for virtually every piece recorded. The brief artist bios are of an equivalent quality. Eischeid, Indergaard and Johnson are on the faculty of Valdosta [GA] State University, and Malone, that of Mercer University in Macon, GA.
The disk is approximately half songs (all but one sung in English translation, that one being in Yiddish; the texts also have interesting histories) and half instrumental chamber/solo music. Curiously, however, three of the songs whose English texts appear in the booklet are given only instrumental performances, and of these, two, from a set of three by Victor Ullmann entitled Brezulinka, are presented in Eischeid's arrangements for oboe and piano. The longest single piece of the ten is Pavel Haas' Suite for Oboe and piano, Op. 17, which lasts 16:41 and incorporates the St. Wenceslas Chorale in one movement and the Hussite resistance hymn "Ktoz jsí bozí bojovníci" (Those Who are God's Soldiers) in another. All of the music is hauntingly, poignantly beautiful and the performances are all excellent.
Complaints are that the CD could have been more generous, the songs could have all been sung in their original language rather than in English translation, with original texts provided in the booklet along with the English, and, while Eischeid's arrangement of the Ullmann work is lovely, it would have been nice to have it juxtaposed to the original version performed in its entirety. These reservations notwithstanding, this is a fine, significant, and important recording, especially in the wake of Decca's cancellation of its praise-worthy and award-winning "Entartete Musik" project that had been headed up for the decade or so of its existence by Raleigh native Michael Haas. Highly recommended.