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Music of Stefan Wolpe, Volume 6
a new Wolpe recital spanning 33 years of the composer's work

Four Studies on Basic Rows (1935-36)
Three Pieces for Youngsters (1950)
Lied, Anrede, Hymnus, Strophe zarteste Bewegung (1939)
Toccata in Three Parts (1941)
Studies for Piano, Part 1, Displaced Spaces (1946-48)
Studies for Piano, Part 2 (1948)
Two Dances for Piano (1926)
Palestinian Notebook (1939)
Songs Without Words (1959)

David Holzman, piano

available from Bridge Records


To celebrate David Holzman’s second CD of Wolpe’s music, Robert Carl of Fanfare interviewed Austin Clarkson and reviewed three CDs of Bridge’s Wolpe Collection. Carl’s comment on the “Four Studies” (Vol. 6):

. . . one of the remarkable piano pieces of the 20th century, its movements culminating in a Passacaglia that is magisterial. Wolpe’s take on serialism was always personal and heterodox, and one of the marvelous things about this music is how economical, direct, and clear its ideas always are. Frankly I find it more satisfying than most of Schoenberg’s 12-tone works, and that’s I think in part because Wolpe was always concerned with intervals, not just pitches, in what elements of the music he wanted to emphasize and project.

Additional information
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Music of Stefan Wolpe, Volume 5
Lazy Andy Ant, Suite for Marthe Krueger & other songs

Lazy Andy Ant (1947) (Text by Helen Fletcher)
Patrick Mason (narrator); Zac Garcia (Andy)
Wendy Buzby (The Judge); Mathew Whitmore (The Anteater)
Quattro Mani (Susan Grace & Alice Rybak), pianos

Suite for Marthe Krueger (1940)
Quattro Mani (Alice Rybak & Susan Grace, pianos)

The Angel (1959) (Blake)
Rebecca Jo Loeb, mezzo-soprano; Ursula Oppens, piano

Two Songs for Baritone (1938)
I. Die Reichen (Heslova)
II. An Dich (Whitman)

O Captain (1946) (Whitman)
Matt Boehler, bass-baritone; Ursula Oppens, piano

Songs of the Jewish Pioneers(1938)
Ra'inu; Saleinu; Tel Aviv; Holem Tza'adi
Rebecca Jo Loeb, mezzo-soprano; Ursula Oppens, piano

To a Theatre New (1961) (Winthrop Palmer)
Matt Boehler, bass-baritone; Ursula Oppens, piano


available from Bridge Records

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WOLPE! Welche Farbe hat der Vogel?

Gunnar Brandt, tenor
Johan Bossers, piano
Viviane De Muynck, narrator
Caroline Petrick, continuity
Herman Sorgeloos, stage director

Music: Stefan Wolpe
Texts: Bertolt Brecht, Hans Eckelt, Erich Kästner, V. I. Lenin, Martin Lindt, Siegmar Mehring (after Jean-Baptiste Clément), Siegfried Moos, Ludwig Renn, Kurt Schwitters,Berthold Viertel, Erich Weinert

A co-production of Muziektheater Transparant (Antwerp) and Beursschouwburg (Brussels)

Brussels, Beursschouwburg. January 17 (premiere), 18, 19, 2008
Antwerp, Toneelhuis, March 4, 5, 2008
Paris, Amphithéâtre, Opéra de Paris. April 17-18, 2008

Stavanger 2008 Tou Scene, February, 10, 2008
Ghent NTGent, June 4, 2008
Holland Festival (Amsterdam), June 7, 2008
Edinburgh Festival, August 29-30, 2008


Transparant is shaping up our thoughts and opinions with the music theater piece Wolpe!
“The Public is Seriously Underestimated”
Wouter Hillaert, De Morgen (Brussels), Jan. 17, 2008 (Premiere)

Communist songs aren’t exactly what we expect from modern music theatre, but almost twenty years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, Transparant is going for it in ‘Wolpe!’ Without any irony. ‘It’s not that we intend to shock the audience,’ says actress Vivianne De Muynck. ‘But we do invite them to consider the alternative.’

One night at the home of pianist Johan Bossers. He had been helping Viviane De Muynck with the deciphering of some scores of Gyorgy Kurtag for her monologue ‘La poursuite du vent.’ “I’ll show you something else to listen to,” said Bossers. Out of the loudspeakers came the sound of energetic Kampfmusik, sing-along tunes in German that were supposed to nourish the socialist resistance. De Muynck was immediately inspired, and hit her fist on the table. “These questions are simply not on people’s minds anymore these days!”

The songs turned out to be by the German composers Stefan Wolpe (1902-1972). He wrote them in Berlin right before the Hitler era, at the crossroads of his communist ideas and his modernist inspiration from the Bauhaus circle. What abstract painters like Kandinsky tried to do with paint, Wolpe did with notes: look for a new harmony, an atonal expressionism à la Schoenberg. He was banned, especially as a Jew, by the Nazis for this. Wolpe escaped to New York.

Bossers was always fascinated by the half-forgotten work of Wolpe. After a Wolpe concert with tenor Gunnar Brandt in Bremen, he wanted to expand their collaboration for a non-German speaking audience. Without any trouble whatsoever he convinced De Muynck to perform the texts. “Wolpe’s music needs a context. If that isn’t created, he would be reduced to a musical curiosity,” Bossers states. The various texts that they chose, often by philosophers, are supposed to situate Wolpe’s dream of a new kind of society. “We do not promote a new world order, but it is important to inspire people to stay critical in their thinking,” De Muynck says. “And there are of course many people who are already trying to create positive things with good intentions. It’s just that these initiatives sometimes lack political reflection.”

Does the communist inspiration of Wolpe offer the right setting for this? “Let’s hope so,” adds Carolline Petrick, the coach of the production. “I think we should make a difference between communist thought and what it has turned into, between the revolutionary idea and the dictatorship. This was in essence a very human idea. We mainly use Wolpe’s conviction as an alternative to the enormous defeatism and populism of today: ‘You don’t have to understand it anymore, because the world is much too complex!’ This isn’t true. If we would study these structures a little better, I think we would find out what’s really going on. this is exactly our inspiration: shake up people’s thinking. I think the public is seriously underestimated. Once again they are longing for complexity.”

With Wolpe’s Kampfmusik this complexity becomes a rather cheerful experience. “What’s so special about this incredible succession of notes is that it creates sing-along tunes out of misery. And that is very special,” De Muynck says. “You will be singing along, I can assure. you!”

Stamping Your Feet is Allowed
Evelyne Coussens, Zone 03. February 20, 2008

Is it possible to return to return to a dream that was once dreamed by society? It is the question that Muziektheater Transparant is asking with
Wolpe! Welche Farbe hat der Vogel?, a concert for piano (Johan Bossers), tenor (Gunnar Brandt) and voice (Viviane De Muynck), which puts the half-forgotten composer-pianist Stefan Wolpe (1902-1972) back into the spotlight. And with him his rather dusty dream of a radically new society. Pay attention to the exclamation mark: Wolpe! exclaims in style and tone, is sparking with decisiveness and faith in progress. But one lay underneath, the exclamation mark is replaced by a question mark, posing the same honest question: is it possible to be a utopian these days?

In the 1930s Wolpe was Jewish communist with Dadaist sympathies, who worked in Berlin—the combination couldn’t be any worse. As a musical avant-gardist, he explored the boundaries of atonal music, as
believer in the Utopia that communism promised he offered his art to the idea. Besides complex piano compositions he wrote popular sing-along and cabaret songs preaching the revolution. It’s no surprise that Wolpe fled from Nazi Germany in 1933.

With the music itself and a few philosophical texts by Plato, Alain Badiou , and Lenin, Petrick succeeds in linking the anecdotal past with the future: what is worth the trouble these days? We shouldn’t expect an unambiguous answer, nor is a serious philosophical debate initiated. Because even though the question is asked quite seriously, Petrick still chooses a playful presentation. The pianist is wearing a blue dustcoat; the tenor is a dandy straight from a Berlin cabaret; Viviane de Muynck is an ordinary woman who doesn’t mince her words. The public gets a program book with the song texts—singing along and stamping your feet is allowed. “Are you in trouble? Do you have cares? We can offer you a lovelier world!” The cheerful revue of songs and texts seems a caricature, but is never non-committal.

Petrick will simply not let you forget, all irony aside, that there were once peole who dared to believe in this utopia. This or another utopia, because the attempt to realize an ideal state is more important than the realization itself. In this sense
Wolpe! is a plea for the dream, a protest against defeatism of these ‘fast times where everything is a feverish standstill’. De Muynck and Brandt are a duo that is fun to watch: De Muynck teachers, sings, mocks, bites, and endears; Brandt sings expressively and acts rather alienating, like a wooden puppel. Add to this the music of Wolpe (‘an energetic gift’) and you get a very relevant party, which urges you to think things through.