[Anne Sofie von Otter. – Photo Credit: Mats Bäcker]
Anne Sofie von Otter has released many albums and certainly has a few more up her sleeve. Regular readers of this blog will not be surprised to know that I own most of them. I couldn’t choose a favorite (although I am very, very, very fond of the Mahler/Zemlinsky when it comes to solo recitals), but the most important, most touching and most impacting recording that von Otter has ever made is, in my book, her Theresienstadt album.
It’s been on my mind a lot these days with the holocaust memorial days. I freely admit that there are many days where I don’t listen to it, not because of the voice, but in a way because of how it is voiced: the warmth, the unpretentiousness and the comprehension of von Otter’s interpretation are intricately linked with the how the music came to be. Listening to this recording leaves me uneasy in the best of senses – so very aware of the horrors, so humbled by the humanity and beauty of the music, so utterly unable to grasp this context look at it from a comfortable distance.
I always cry when I listen to the songs, and it’s not the kind of culinary tears one cries during a Verdi opera. It’s a helpless reaction at bearing witness to humanity lost, and humanity found.
The voices of Theresienstadt and their musical and human legacy couldn’t have a better spokesperson than von Otter, who – along with her colleagues from the recording, likeDaniel Hope and Bengt Forsberg, seems to have revisited some of the material. There is a concert performance with Hope and von Otter moderating airing at the Bayrischer Rundfunk tomorrow, 7.05 p.m. (GMT+1), and special feature with interviews and background information on music in Theresienstadt (featuring two survivors and Daniel Hope), starting 9.03 p.m. (GMT+1). Livestream access here.
Reading the announcement, I remembered an interview with Daniel Hope in last year’s Oct/Nov edition of “Crescendo” (p. 50; I just looked it up again), which is one of those free classical/jazz review magazines,where he wrote a column on being able to interview Theresienstadt survivor and pianist Alice Herz-Sommer and also mentions that there is a documentary in the works, presumably including not only Herz-Sommer and Hope, but also Forsberg and von Otter. The BR feature tomorrow seems to be linked to it; I’ll keep my ears open regarding a release date.
Tune in, even if you won’t sleep afterwards. Most of the composers and original musicians may be long gone, but the least we can do is listen to their voices and keep their memory alive.
(and I apologize for the PSA tone, but this week tends to get to me. I’m not sure whether it’s my being German, or having visited Thersienstadt as a teenager, or my particular family history (as discussed in the prologue to “Troubled Passage”), but this is an issue where I can’t help but be involved.)