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CD Feature/ Judith Kopecky & Julia Tinhof: "exiles"

img  Tobias

We could spend hours speculating about what the music scene would look and sound like today if World War II had never taken place. It might even turn out to be a stimulating discussion. In the end, though, the days of ’38 will of course never return. Not only was a promising generation of composers swept from the musical map, an entire world of ideas and aesthetics collapsed - burried under disillusionment, a strong sense that the old techniques would not suffice to express the pain and a burning desire to do away with the past and try new ways. Subsequently, most of those who fled saw their careers stagnate or even disappear. Slowly but surely, though, their music is rising from the ashes again and it would take a blind man to ignore its beauty. “Exiles” will certainly open a few eyes.

What immediately strikes one about this project is that it is being presented by an artists, who has been involved in the cause for quite some time: Judith Kopecky has a close relationship with the Austrian Orpheus Trust (who actively promotes the music of persecuted composers), performing songs on many occasions and in various settings. Therefore, “Exiles” is not just a short excursion beyond the spotlight of trends, but rather a document of a long-term artistic friendship. It also establishes a first focal point – getting started, as any writer will know, is always the hardest part and with hardly any comparable releases available, it must have been a tremendously difficult task of choosing between the 5.250 musicians (!) forced to flee. Five of them have made it to the CD and if there will have perforce to be ommissions, it is beyond any doubt that all of the chosen candidates can easily be justified. On top of that, the nuances between their temparements and techniques make this a varied and plentiful collection: From the immediate and overtly emotional Alexander Zemlinsky to the harmonic tight rope walked by Egon Wellesz, from the almost naive romanticism of Franz Mittler and Victor Urbancic to the coded messages of Erich Korngold there is never a moment of boredom among these 70 minutes. Especially so, since these “Lieder” are not once close to the often artificial forms of post-45 – these are genuine songs, with melodic hooks and tunes you can whistle to (if the subject matter were not occasionaly slightly melancholic or sad). Even those alien to the German language will be able to feel the world-weariness of “Schlafe, ach schlafe” (the poet reinsures her deceased lover that there is nothing worth coming back to in this world) and the tender waking-up fantasy of “Liebe Schwalbe” or dream away in the ten minute long surreal reverie “Wie ein Bild”, which returns to the ever-same picture of a girl sleeping in her garden from ever-changing perspectives. Despite her admitted love for the sentimentality of the pieces, Kopecky never allows herself to become too indulgent. Instead, she fathoms the hidden depths of the lyrics, leaving the tears to the listener.

Despite this being refered to as her solo CD on some occasions, it is of course essentially a duo album, with pianist Julia Tinhof as her partner. The recording balance actually reinforces this picture, by giving both artists enough breathing space. Thus, “Exiles” sounds much livelier and more like a live set than other recitals, which only adds to the intensity of the material. The debate of what the music scene would look and sound like without World War II might not yield any concrete results. But for just over an hour, the days of ’38 are back again.

By Tobias Fischer

Homepage: Judith Kopecky
Homepage: Extraplatte Records
Homepage: Orpheus Trust

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