Chamber society lifts ‘Silenced Voices’

Special to The Times

The Los Angeles Philharmonic’s just-concluded “Silenced Voices” project arrived a bit late in the game, for it was in the 1990s that such previously forgotten, Nazi-persecuted composers as Erwin Schulhoff,Viktor Ullmann and Gideon Klein began to receive a worldwide renaissance.

It is startling to glance at a CD catalog from 1990 -- where Schulhoff is represented by only one full album and Klein and Ullmann by none -- and then jump to a 1997 catalog, where Schulhoff has nearly 2 1/2 columns of recordings, Klein almost a full column and Ullmann half a column.

It’s still too early to say whether any of their newly resurrected works will be absorbed into the repertoire. Yet some fine pieces have been unearthed -- and members of the Philharmonic Chamber Music Society seemed to relish three of them at Walt Disney Concert Hall on Tuesday night.

The Czech-born Schulhoff has been the most interesting rediscovery, a cosmopolitan figure who loved his native country’s folk music, German expressionism and primitive American jazz, and who rolled these and other styles into one quirky ball.


His marvelous Concertino for the oddball combination of flute/piccolo, viola and double bass concentrates on his East European folk and dance side, throwing in sassy wisecracks and Stravinsky-like repetitions. Catherine Ransom Karoly (flute/piccolo), Ingrid Hutman (viola) and Christopher Hanulik (bass) had plenty of fun with it.

Ullmann’s String Quartet No. 3, written while he was imprisoned at the concentration camp known as Theresienstadt in Czechoslovakia, is close to becoming a standard. It’s an inspired, bittersweet work that expresses a longing for beauty amid brutality. Although some performances have stressed a Berg-like intensity, Mitchell Newman and Michele Bovyer (violins), Leticia Oaks Strong (viola) and Barry Gold (cello) leaned toward a broader, more luxuriant approach that looked back to the 19th century.

These players also tackled Klein’s Fantasy and Fugue, another product of Theresienstadt that continued the yearning expressionistic mood, but in a more downcast vein.

As in previous concerts of this series, some quasi-silenced voices were included. The violin-viola duo of Stacy and Minor L. Wetzel played Martinu’s Three Madrigals -- a rambunctious, tuneful piece, distinctive in every way. However, the performance of Mendelssohn’s Trio No. 2 by violinist Mark Kashper, cellist David Garrett and pianist Junko Ueno Garrett was pretty bland.