It could have been a week-long festival, with operas and movie sound-tracks, symphonies and gypsy violinists -- an endless stream of music in all forms and styles ranging from "September Song" to "Moses and Aaron." The subject of last night's concert at the Baird Auditorium was mucic of composers driven into exile by Adolf Hitler -- part of a three-day symposium, "The Muses Flee Hitler," arranged for the centennial of an amateur fiddler named Einstein.
Given limited time and resources, the 20th Century Concert chose to present a brief program of very high quality, with one work apiece by four of the greatest composers whose lives were disrupted by Hitler: Bela Bartok, Igor Stravinsky, Paul Hindemith and Arnold Schoenberg.
Without any thematic link, Bartok's "Contrasts" for clarinet, violin and piano, Stravinsky's Three Pieces for unaccompanied clarinet, Hindemith's Sonata for Flute and Piano and Schoenberg's Chamber Symphony (in the Webern arrangement for flute, clarinet, violin, cello and piano) would have been a fascinating program of music that is too seldom hard. The five performers (a remarkably low number of such a variety of music) performed at the high level that this ensemble has established as its standard. p
Clarinetist Loren Kitt was paticularly brilliant in the austere, playful, nervously melodic Stravinsky. But each of the works had a charm of its own: the Bartok for its fiery eloquence and variety of flavors, the Hindemith (exquisitely played by flutist Sara Stern) for its unabashed melodic charm, the Schoenberg for its poised tension between romantic and modern styles. The too-brief concert demonstrated that, like Russia today, Hitler's Europe enormously enriched America by exiling its finest talents.