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Anne Sofie von Otter

Terezin is a record everyone should hear, said Patrick O

Anne Sofie von Otter Terezin/Theresienstadt (Deutsche Grammophon/Universal)

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Terezin is a record everyone should hear, said Patrick O’Connor in Gramophone. Named after a concentration camp in Poland, this “unbearably touching” collection pays homage to the members of the Czech-Jewish cultural elite, including several composers, who were imprisoned there before being sent to Auschwitz. In “one of the most cynical public relations exercises ever put into operation,” the Nazis forced artists and musicians inside Terezin to tell lies about the severity of their treatment. But at the same time, some were secretly still creating instrumental music and songs. A selection from nine of the incarcerated composers, Terezin is impossible to listen to without entering a “state of wonder at the bravery and majesty of these persecuted and martyred musicians.” Swedish mezzo-soprano Anne Sofie von Otter, joined by baritone Christian Gerhaher, tenderly portrays the sadness and spirit of the music. Every song “forms an assertion of human dignity in the face of unspeakable suffering,” said Tim Ashley in the London Guardian. Terezin affectingly explores many emotions and modes, from the bitter irony of Karel Svenk’s cabaret numbers to the modernist experiments of Viktor Ullman. Erwin Schulhoff’s fine Sonata for Solo Violin closes the album, said Matthew Rye in the London Daily Telegraph. Vigorously performed by Daniel Hope, the composition is a “fitting epitaph for this lost generation.”

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