Reviews 1993


Tippett: A Child of our Time (
Schoenberg: A Survivor from Warsaw (
Beethoven: Symphony No 5

A Concert for the oppressed
December 11

A Survivor from Warsaw, A Child of our Time, Charter Hall

Concerts with a political message are very much a rarity these days, but the performance by the University of Essex Choir fell firmly into the category.
The coupling of Arnold Schonberg’s A Survivor from Warsaw with the Sir Michael Tippett’s A Child of our Time established quite clearly that this was a concert for the oppressed. This was reinforced by the inclusion of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, which although not written for the persecuted later became associated with freedom. The similarity of the opening phase to the Morse code letter V symbolising victory became a very effective symbol in the Second World War.
A Survivor from Warsaw is a remarkably powerful work. This is in part due to its length – it is very short – leaving unfulfilled and also to the spare scoring for just narrator, male chorus and orchestra. Inspired by an incident recounted by a survivor from the ghetto, the horror of the story is effectively amplified by the dissonance of the music.
In A Child of our Time, Tippett has taken the opposite course. He started writing it two days after the outbreak of war and instead of being purely narrative he not only compares the sufferings of one people with another but also introduces an element of hope in the form of Negro Spirituals which occur regularly through the work.
In the course of one work the choir was required to be narrator, the oppressed, the persecutors, the self righteous and then to switch to well known spirituals, a difficult task at the best of times but when combined with the soaring soprano voice of Adele Paxton there were moments of spine tingling beauty.

D. N. T, East Anglian Times