Hyperion Records

Suite from Brundibár
1938; first performed in a Jewish orphanage in Prague in 1942
commissioned by The Nash Ensemble; chamber version of the suite devised by Petr Pokorný

'Brundibár' (CDA67973)
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Movement 1: Allegro energico
Movement 2: Valse: Lento cantabile
Movement 3: Allegro vivace
Movement 4: Serenade: Moderato
Movement 5: Lento
Movement 6: Moderato tranquillo
Movement 7: Allegro molto ŕ la marcia

Suite from Brundibár  
© Terezín Memorial, Herman’s Collection
A souvenir poster for the staging of Hans Krása’s children’s opera Brundibár

Suite from Brundibár
The children’s opera Brundibár (‘Bumblebee’) is the best-known piece from Theresienstadt, where it was performed fifty-five times. It’s a catchy and hummable score. It was composed by Hans Krása (1899–1944) and librettist Adolf Hoffmeister for a competition in 1938 which was never awarded because of the Nazi invasion. It was first performed in concert in a Prague Jewish Orphanage in early 1942, by which time the composer was already in Theresienstadt. For the Theresienstadt performances, Krása re-orchestrated it for thirteen instruments and amended Hoffmeister’s left-wing lyrics so the message was that if you club together Good will triumph over Evil.

The music is very melodic, but spiky and unsentimental. The opera tells the story of two young kids, Aninka and Pepicek, trying to get milk for their sick mother. They don’t have enough money to buy any and are persecuted by the organ-grinder Brundibár, whose music is hugely popular with the public. In despair, Aninka and Pepicek are helped by three animals—a sparrow, a cat and a dog (depicted in the music by piccolo, legato violin and clarinet). They sing a lullaby when they finally get their milk and it ends with a victory march. All the main tunes are included in the suite (devised by Petr Pokorný in the 1990s). This is the first recording of David Matthews’ version for string quartet, piano, flute, clarinet, trumpet and percussion, specially commissioned by The Nash Ensemble.

from notes by Simon Broughton © 2013

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