eda records launched the “Poland Abroad” series in 2004 in cooperation with Deutschlandradio Kultur following a festival that the Konzerthaus Berlin dedicated to Poland as Germany’s neighbor on the occasion of the eastern expansion of the European Union. This large-scale presentation put the spotlight on composers who have largely gone unnoticed on the international music scene and were persecuted or driven into exile due to the political situation (during the partition of Poland, the Nazi occupation, and the Communist yoke that followed). Some of them survived the war and the Shoah under dramatic circumstances.
One such figure the festival highlighted was Auschwitz survivor Szymon (Simon) Laks, whose oeuvre runs through the “Poland Abroad” series like a golden thread. It presents compositions of every genre: opera, ballet, symphony, concerto and chamber music. The goal is to highlight the outstanding quality of this repertoire in reference recordings and to encourage listeners to take an interest in two central aspects of cultural history (and not only that of the 20th century): transculturality and transnationality. All of the composers presented here stepped outside of their national context and demonstrated a style that was as individual as it was universal in their engagement with the various movements of the European avant-garde of their time.
In Vol. 1 of the series, the Berlin Chamber Symphony presents works for string orchestra under the guidance of artistic director Jürgen Bruns. With the exception of the Serenade by Karłowicz, all works are recorded here for the first time. Karłowicz, who was close to the “Young Poland” group that surrounded Szymanowski, had studied in Berlin; his Serenade was premiered by the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra. Jerzy Fitelberg, son of the legendary conductor Grzegorz Fitelberg, also studied in Berlin. As a graduate of Franz Schreker’s master class at the Berliner Musikhochschule, he ranked among the outstanding representatives of the young Polish avant-garde, which received long-term support from Alexandre Tansman, the doyen of Poland’s new music movement. Tansman and Fitelberg both managed to escape Nazi persecution by fleeing to the US. Simon Laks, who joined the “Association des Jeunes Musiciens Polonais” in Paris in 1926, was imprisoned in 1941 on account of his Jewish heritage and deported to Auschwitz. He survived as the director of the men’s orchestra at the Birkenau extermination camp.
Simon Laks: Sinfonietta (1936)
Jerzy Fitelberg: Concerto (1928)
Mieczyław Karłowicz: Serenade op. 2 (1897)