Classical Editor: Rob Barnett                               Music Webmaster Len Mullenger:

Terezin Ghetto Requiem for Baritone and String Quartet (1997) [16.30]
Ivan Kusnjer (baritone)
Stampa Quartet
rec. 21. 1. 98 in Rudolfino [16.30]
[This appears to be a private promotional issue and some of these recordings are available on the Panton discs also reviewed today. LM]
Contact address: QuattroSylvie Bodorova, Valentova 1731, 149 00 Praha 4, Czech Republic
tel./fax.: + 420 - 2 - 7921743 e-mail: Subject: Quattro

Born 1954 Sylvie Bodorova studied piano and composition at Bratislava and then the Janacek Academy of Performing Arts in Brno, taught by Kohoutek; then Gdansk, then with Donatoni (are some of the chromatic slides and gradations his influence?). Active at the Ton de Leuw in Amsterdam, she taught at the Janacek and then for two years 1994-96 as Composer in Residence at the College-Conservatory of music, University of Cincinnati. Her works have been widely performed, and this work, the brief 16 minute Terezin Ghetto Requiem for Baritone and String Quartet was performed at the Wigmore, and at the 2000 Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival amongst other prestigious places. I missed it at the latter, which is so packed with premieres.

This is a CD single, put out by the composer herself, part of the QUATTRO network which I suspect she's instrumental in running. Thus these CDs are easier to obtain than you might think. This piece clearly addresses what Bodorova has elsewhere stated are her humanist aims, finally: 'We are here so that we may illuminate things from a different angle.'

It's clearly designed as a restrained, pared-back requiem, and I think it succeeds, in this form. One recalls Simon Bainbridge's Primo Levi settings, a composer two years older than Bodorova, thus part of that group of artists coming to terms with the holocaust as a wholly historic event. Bodorova, of course, was a lot closer to it. In particular, we must recall that the worst toll on composers perhaps ever, took place in Czechoslovakia with the deportation and murder of Erwin Schulhoff (1894-1942) (who'd fled to Russia), Viktor Ullmann (1898-1944), Pavel Haas (1899-1944), Hans Krasa (1899-1944), and Gideon Klein (1919-45) who missed a chance to get to his RAM scholarship, and so Radoslav Kvapil's wife informed me, was shot by mistake at the liberation...

So this is, in fact, a requiem for Czech composers, virtually a whole generation of the most gifted. After Martinu (1890-1959) and Haba (1893-1973) one looks for the next composer, the Slovakian Alexander Moyzes (1906-84) and Klement Slavicky (1910-99) perhaps, and failing much exposure elsewhere the group of composers around Bodorova. The Communist regime tended to finish off what the Nazi had begun, almost wiping Czech composers off the world map.

It's in three section, the first of which last for 6'55": 'Lacrymosa'. This is an alternating succession for strings and mainly baritone where the singer chants in a Hebraic lament, which at first seems as intense and romantic as anything in Bloch, perhaps rather too large for the quartet. But as it loudens we acclimatise to its raw power. The second movement 'Dies irae' is far busier for the strings, with a repetitive plateau of scherzando work halted finally by the baritone. Finally 'libera me', lasting 6'11", is far more restrained, as one would expect. An undulating figure in the strings accompanies the baritone who initially has far less to do, but who declaims at the end. A moving, harrowing work.

The packaging is minimal, a paper sleeve without any information, and blank CD with a greenish underside. But the trackings and timings are very precisely notated, down to the last second, paradoxically. It's a pity there's no other information, except a wadge of A4 sent in the same package....

Simon Jenner

Return to Index

Reviews from previous months

You can purchase CDs, tickets and musician's accessories and Save around 22% with these retailers: - The UK's Biggest Video Store Musicians accessories
Click here to visit