Hans Krasa (1899-1944) was one of many composers killed in the Holocaust. His children's opera Brundibar has managed to gain a foothold in the repertoire, but it is good to have his "real" opera Verlobung im Traum (1928-30) based on Dostoyevsky's novella "Uncle's Dream" available as well. It is a fascinating and rewarding work, written in a style that - in a very personal manner - appears to combine something of Italian verismo and the lyricism of Dvorak with Schoenberg (and the result sounds uncannily like a dissonant, Bergian take on Janacek, complete with the melodic adaption of natural speech). It combines romantic tunefulness and melody, even including Casta Diva in the work sung by the character Zina (explicitly a contralto in Dostoyevsky's novella but a soprano here), with stark dissonance and grim expressionism, and it is actually rather remarkable that Krasa pulls it off as convincingly as he does. Indeed, to top it all, Krasa also throws in elements of the music theatre in a manner slightly reminiscent of Weil.
One could, in other works, even perhaps say that Krasa's Verlobung im Traum captures the essence of and sums up the operatic styles prevalent at the time of writing (some have dismissed is as pastiche, but I do think Krasa pulls the strands together into something pretty unified and stylistically convincing). And Lothar Zagrosek and the German Symphony Orchestra certainly captures the multifaceted style pretty admirably - you get the subtle stylistic references as well as the variegated textures, alluring drama, dramatic shifts in tempo and character, power, momentum and sheer innovativeness of the work; there is plenty of color and even humor in the performance, but the stark shifts in atmospheres and mood are impressively captured as well. The vocal soloists are splendid, and manages the stylistic shifts and varying character impressively. Particular praise should go to Juanita Lascarro's superb Zina, as impressive in dissonant anger as in bel canto beauty, but none of the singers ever fall below good.
In short, Verlobuing is a remarkable and splendidly crafted score, sharp and jagged, colorful and multifaceted but in my view stylistically coherent nonetheless. It is coupled with a performance of the early Symphonie (1923) given in a performance conducted by Vladimir Ashkenazy. Scored for chamber orchestra it often sounds like an eerily glittering, gossamer-textured symphonic poem with a touch of sardonic wit, drawing on Debussy and Stravinsky as much as Schoenberg. It is not a masterpiece, but it is nevertheless rather captivating and receives a beautiful, committed performance. Overall, I'd say the music here is something of a find, marvelously executed, and comprising a set that should be snapped up by anyone interested in the music of the period.