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31/08/2022 Premiere - First edition of the "Streichquartett 1944", string quartet by James Simon (1880-1944)

Publisher Donemus had the premiere to publish a string quartet by composer James Simon, who fled to Amsterdam. It is believed to be the last string quartet James Simon composed and bears the inscription “Streichquartett 1944. Singer Robbert Muuse tracked down copies in David Bloch’s archives at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington and researched its origins. To make the unique musical work available for performance, he decided to have it published by Donemus. Robbert Muuse is also working on selections of songs by James Simon, which, like the string quartet, will be published for the first time.

Simon fled National Socialism from Berlin to Amsterdam, where he lived for some 11 years and worked successfully as a composer, pianist and musicologist. Until he eventually had to go into hiding. After his arrest in 1943, he ended up in transit camp Westerbork and was deported to Terezín (Theresienstadt) concentration camp. On Oct. 12, 1944, he was deported to Auschwitz. One witness recalls how the composer, seemingly unaware of what was happening around him, sat on his suitcase waiting for the train and jotted down his final musical inspirations (Trilobiet, A. F. (z.d.). James Simon www.forbiddenmusicregained.org).

James Simon’s music
James Simon was not the type to engage with the latest developments of the Second Viennese School, nor to draw inspiration from Debussy or Ravel. He composed in a style that had been popular in Germany many decades earlier, and yet he managed to achieve impressive creations in this style, as evidenced by his compelling 1944 Streichquartett. It also attests to his great love for the music of Bach and Mozart.
James Simon had also previously composed a work for this instrumentation, his Legend (c. 1929).
Thanks to the use of identical melodic and rhythmic motifs, the 1944 Streichquartett maintains a thorough coherence throughout the three movements.
The score was compiled using a digital copy of the individual instrumental parts, obtained from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington. The original parts were donated to the British Library in London by Ulrich Simon, son of the composer. The location of the score is unknown; it may have been lost.

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(persecuted jewish composers)

Playlist – Recorded 15/7/2020 | Vereeniging Nijmegen

Robbert Muuse, baritone
Micha van Weers, piano
performing lieder by Viktor Ullmann, Pavel Haas, Jan van Gilse