Kamp! Songs and Satire from Theresienstadt
Amelia DeMayo, Curt Buchler, Sandra Kreisler, Isabelle Georges (vocals)
Sergei Dreznin (piano)
rec. April 2015, New York
ANALEKTA AN28789 [62:19]
In 1992 the Austrian actor and director Alexander Waechter devised a production for three performers called Chansons und Satiren aus Theresienstadt. The lyrics and poems came directly from the ghetto camp itself and the original melodies were preserved, and restored. Pianist and musical director Sergei Dreznin wrote some melodies to existing poems as did Grerhard Bronner, a Viennese cabaret star. Two years later an English language version called KAMP! (in capital letters) was given in Florida, and later on the production toured to New York and New Jersey.
This is essentially the recording of that touring version, with Dreznin, present since that 1992 German language premiere, still at the keyboard. Lyricists and composers include some relatively well-known names - Leo Strauss, Ilse Weber and Walter Lindenbaum included – and many of the 25 pieces owe something to the then prevailing influence of the Viennese tradition.
The translation into English, delivered via a sometimes vaudevillian American perspective, does, however, have the effect of rendering the music in a different guise – sometimes a quite broad demotic prevails which tends to risk overbalancing the expressive ambiguity of the music. This somewhat off-Broadway approach can sometimes pack a punch but it can also be alienating. The layers of irony implicit in Weber’s Theresienstadt Nursery Rhyme are ironed out in the translation and the crooning vaudevillian elements of Letter to my child are not, to my ears, either effective or affecting. The debt to the adenoidal Jewish New York tradition in several of the songs more often than not displaces the original in favour of an alien vernacular. Things are much more compelling when less broad: Weber, once again, and her Potato peeler being a particular case in point.
The lyrics are printed in full, though the what is sung doesn’t always quite accord with those printed texts; there are quite a few discrepancies. Perhaps these were ones worked out via stage productions.
The booklet is attractively done and the recorded sound is good, though sometimes the acoustic shifts around between songs making me wonder over how many days the project was recorded.
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1. Come Right In! (Lyrics: Leo Straus / Music: Gerhard Bronner)
2. Maria Theresia the Empress (Schlesinger / Sergei Dreznin)
3. Theresienstadt Nursery Rhyme (Ilse Weber to a popular German nursery rhyme)
4. Letter To My Child (Ilse Weber / Sergei Dreznin)
5. Theresienstadt March (Karel Schwenk)
6. Theresienstadt Questions (Leo Straus / Sergei Dreznin)
7. A Rumor Goes Through Town (Walter Lindenbaum / Gerhard. Bronner)
8. Reco (Theodor Otto Beer to the popular 1930s couplet by Ralph Benatzki)
9. Ghetto Guard (Theodor Otto Beer / Kurt Klauber)
10. A Suitcase Speaks (Ilse Weber / Sergei Dreznin)
11. The Theater Ticket (Hans Hofer / Gerhard Bronner)
12. Mr. Sauer, Mr. Green (Lyrics by unknown to the popular pre-war cabaret act by Armin Berg)
13. The Chefs Are Coming (Leo Straus to music from the pre-war operetta The Courageous Soldier by his father Oscar Straus)
14. And the Music Plays Along (Walter Lindenbaum after a hit from the 1930s operetta Saison in Salzburg by Fred Raymond)
15. Just As Though (Leo Strauss, adapted to Alexander Steinbrecher 1938 Vienna song Two From Ottakring by Sergei Dreznin)
16. St. Louis Blues (W.C. Handy, arranged by Sergei Dreznin)
17. The Little Café (Walter Lindenbaum to a popular 1930’s Vienna song Kleines Café by Hermann Leopoldi)
18. Down in Prater (Leo Straus / Otto Skutecky)
19. The Sheep From Lidice (Ilse Weber / Gerhard Bronner)
20. The Butterfly (Pavel Friedmann / Gerhard Bronner)
21. A Package Makes the Rounds (Leo Straus / Sergei Dreznin)
22. They Seek One Another (Kopper / Sergei Dreznin)
23. Carousel (Kurt Gerron – Manfred Greifenhagen)
24. Potato-peeler (Ilse Weber / Sergei Dreznin)
25. Our Dear Old Cabaret! (Frida Rosenthal / Sergei Dreznin)