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Wednesday, November 26, 2014


Recital formed a timely reminder of the horrors of Hitler and his henchmen. (Review by Michael Green)

The title aptly indicates the theme of this unusual song recital at the Durban Jewish Centre: music that was banned in Nazi Germany.

The recital, arranged by the Friends of Music and the Holocaust Centre, was a timely reminder of the horrors of Hitler and his henchmen, who, among other things, sought to promote “German cultural supremacy” by banning music that they deemed “degenerate”, in particular music with Jewish connections.

Peter Lurie (tenor) and Jill Richards (piano), both South Africans, have performed extensively overseas and are specialists in music of the 20th century.

Their programme for this recital was interesting but not exactly box office, and the good attendance was, I suspect, motivated as much by loyalty as by enthusiasm for the music. The composers were Arnold Schoenberg (1874-1951), Alban Berg (1885-1935), Erich Zeisl (1905-1959), Gustav Mahler (1860-1911) and Kurt Weill (1900-1950), all of them Jewish except Alban Berg, who studied with Schoenberg and was judged to be under Jewish influence.

Most of the songs performed were written about a century ago, and most of them still sound rather strange to most listeners. They were certainly interesting, and the programme notes provided the original German words plus English translations, a great help to the audience. The subject matter of the songs ranged from romantic ardour and nostalgic melancholy to a boisterous tonal picture of a speeding railway engine and a slightly naughty item about a clever old donkey.

Peter Lurie is obviously a tenor of high quality. He sang with power and conviction, with good diction, with an impressive dynamic range, and with accuracy (although if he had sung a few wrong notes here and there hardly anybody in the audience would have been any the wiser).

Jill Richards was an admirable partner at the piano, playing with skill and discretion. - Michael Green