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Festival music

Anne Sophie von Otter

Anne Sophie von Otter

Queen's Hall

Keith Bruce

It was emblematic of how passionate are Swedish mezzo Anne Sophie von Otter and the associates with whom she has worked with on the music from Terezin concentration camp - pianist Bengt Forsberg, violinist Daniel Hope, and Bebe Risenfors on guitar, accordion, double bass, and hi-hat cymbals - that Forsberg's fist-shaking at the end of one of Victor Ullman's art songs was entirely in the spirit of this moving recital.

Celebrating the astonishing creative courage of the composers and performers who were permitted their "Leisure Time Activities" so that the Nazis might obscure the reality of Holocaust requires the sort of range of expression that von Otter has. Because while Ullman, Pavel Haas and Erwin Schulhoff were major contemporary composers whose work sounds very much at the cutting edge of the mid-20th century, Karel Svenk's music sits somewhere between Weimar cabaret and a barn dance (with a distinct similarity to Jimmy Shand at times) and young Robert Dauber's sole surviving piece, a Violin Sonata preceded by an affecting poem, is almost Palm Court.

But after many years promoting this repertoire and the stories behind it, these musicians can both attempt to recreate what the concerts may have been like, by segueing from Schulhoff into Bach, and underline the grim reality of their situation by closing with the lullaby that poet and songwriter Ilse Weber reportedly sang to the children as they were led to the gas chamber. That one son escaped before war broke out and lived later in Stockholm is clearly a significant link for the soprano.

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