girl-penguinUllmann, Viktor

ULLMANN: Abendphantasie. 2 Hölderlin Lieder: Der Frühling. Sonnenuntergang / Mitsuko Shirai, mezzo-soprano: Hartmut Höll, pianist / available for free streaming on YouTube by clicking on titles above

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ULLMANN: 5 Liebeslieder: 1. Wo Hast du All die Schönheit hergenommen; 2. Am Klavier; 3. Sturmlied; 4. Wenn je ein Schönes mir zu bilden gluckte; 5. O Schöne Hand, Kelch, dessen Duft Musik / Christine Schäfer, soprano; Axel Bauni, pianist / available for free streaming on YouTube by clicking titles above

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ULLMANN: Liederbuch des Hafis: 1. Vorausbestimmung; 2. Betrunken; 3. Unwiderstehliche Schönheit; 4. Lob des Weines / Yaron Windmüller, baritone; Axel Bauni, pianist / available for free streaming on YouTube by clicking titles above

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ULLMANN: Der Kaiser von Atlantis / Pierre-Yves Pruvot, baritone (Kaiser Overall); Wassyl Slipak, bass-baritone (Death/Loudspeaker); Anna Wall, mezzo-soprano (Drummer); Natalie Pérez, soprano (Bublkopf); Sébastien Obrecht, tenor (Harlequin/Soldier); Orchestre Musique des Lumières; Facundo Agudin, conductor / IBS Classical 53218 or available for free streaming in small bits on YouTube

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ULLMANN: Overture: Don Quixote tanzt Fandango. Symphonies Nos. 1 & 2 / Prague Symphony Orchestra; Tomáš Hanus, conductor / Centaur 3356

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ULLMANN: Piano Concerto: I. Allegro con fuoco; II. Andante tranquillo; III. Allegro; IV. Allegro Molto / Moritz Ernst, pianist; Dortmunder Philharmoniker; Gabriel Feltz, conductor / available for free streaming on YouTube by clicking titles above

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ULLMANN: Piano Sonatas Nos. 1-7. Variations and Double Fugue / Christoph Sirodeau, pianist / Bis SACD-2116

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ULLMANN: Die Weise von Liebe und Tod des Cornets / Erika Pluhar, narrator; Dzech Philharmonic Orchestra; Gerd Albrecht, conductor / Orfeo C366951A or available for free streaming in small bits on YouTube

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In my opinion, Viktor Ullmann was the most original, and thus the greatest, of those composers who were killed in the Nazi concentration camps during World War II. His music has a very distinctive profile which is discernible to the ear but not at all easy to describe in words. His most famous work, of course, is the satiric opera The Emperor of Atlantis, written about Hitler and the Germans while he was a prisoner, and it still has the power to grip an audience—particularly those familiar with life in such totalitarian hellholes as Iran, Somalia, Cuba and Venezuela. I prefer this recording to the “all star” version on Decca with Walter Berry, Michael Kraus, Franz Mazura and conductor Lothar Zagrosek because it is much livelier and sounds less like a hothouse flower. The other recordings recommended above are all superb examples of his art.

Ulman, Barbara

ULMAN: All in Green Went My Love Riding. The Centipede. Evening Dress. Fir on the Oquossoc Shore, Singing. January Morning. Joy, Praise, Hope. maggie and millie and molly and may. Nearer to the Heart’s Desire. one winter afternoon. Prayer for This House. Reverie & Rondo for Clarinet & Piano. Weeping Mountains / Melissa Hughes, Rachel Oliver, sopranos; Michael Alberts, tenor; Loren Fields, French hornist; Gail Russ, English hornist; Martin Sobelman, clarinetist; Composer’s Choir (Daniel Shaw, director); Deb Sawyer, Emily Manzo, Cheryl Casola, Barbara Ulman, pianists / CD Baby 5637986207; all but the Reverie & Rondo available for free streaming on YouTube by clicking titles above

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Barbara Ulman is one of the few composers I’ve had the privilege to interview via email. What I remembered most about her was her incredible modesty—she really doesn’t realize just how fine and original a composer she is—plus her fanatical attention to detail. She kept sending me changes to her interview answers three or four times, the last one after my deadline. But I also have to thank her for introducing me to Zamzar, the online service that converts many different files to more conventional and usable files for free. She is clearly one of the most underrated composers of her time.

Underhill, Owen

UNDERHILL: Cello Concerto, “The Curio Box” / Ariel Barnes, cellist; Turning Point Ensemble; Owen Underhill, conductor / Orlando 0037

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Just one work by this composer, the only one I’ve heard, but a masterpiece nonetheless. Well worth seeking out!

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