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Stefan Wolpe - Wolpe in Jerusalem

Passacaglia, op. 23 (1937)
Bühnenmusik zu Molière's Le malade imaginaire (1934) 
Drei kleinere Kanons, op. 24a (1936) 
Suite im Hexachord, op. 24b (1936) 
Konzert für neun Instrumente, op. 22 (1933-1937)

ensemble recherche, WDR Symphony Orchestra
Conducted by Werner Herbers and Johannes Kalitzke

mode 156 [77.32: 2006]

In the early 1930s Stefan Wolpe (1902-1972) studied in Vienna with Anton Webern. Threatened with deportation back to Germany, he left and settled in Jerusalem from 1934 to 1938, finally moving to USA after meeting resistance toward his music as well as growing violence against the Jews in Palestine, where he had been composing music at the forefront of modernism and attempted to organize a Palestine Section of the Inter-national Society for Contemporary Music. His extraordinary musical gifts, fierce energy, and optimistic spirit were admired by his friends and students and Wolpe always retained a deep attachment to Jerusalem as his spiritual home. This important disc concentrates on his important works composed there 1934-38 and includes 3 world premiere recordings.

The 12-tone Passacaglia was turned down by the Palestine Symphony Orchestra and was not heard until 1983, in Carnegie Hall. It is invigorating, tough but not inaccessible music for nowadays, but still not generally known. The incidental music for Molière's Le malade imaginaire makes for an invigorating and thoroughly enjoyable suite, played with obvious enjoyment by ensemble recherche.

The Hexachord Suite for oboe and clarinet amalgamates Middle Eastern elements with progressive European modernism, and the little canons are for violin and cello. The Concerto from his time with Webern went missing and had to be reassembled from 8 remaining parts, lacking that for the violin. The music is dense enough to work well without it!

This is an altogether admirable CD, with excellent production values and fully illustrated background notes and history.

I have previously reviewed Wolpe's Symphony and wished for a more modern recording.

See also review of a centenary presentaion at the Tate Gallery 3 September 2002, with a telecast of Wolpe's violin sonata that you can access on line.

See http://WWW.Wolpe.Org the Site of the Stefan Wolpe Society.

© Peter Grahame Woolf