Walter Kaufmann; Chamber Works by ARC Ensemble
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For the fourth installment in its Music in Exile series, the Toronto-based ARC Ensemble turns its attention to the music of Walter Kaufmann. Despite a very promising start in Prague and then Berlin, and friendships with Albert Einstein and with Franz Kafka’s circle, Kaufmann’s career become a casualty of the Nazi regime that forced scores of Jewish musicians to flee Germany – in his case for Bombay in India. 


Kaufmann’s intriguing and extensive body of work remains largely forgotten, certainly underappreciated, and perhaps most tragically, unperformed since first heard, although ironically, millions of Indians are familiar with one piece of his music – the signature tune that he wrote in 1936 for All India Radio, which is still played every morning. 


‘The hallmark of this remarkable music’, explains the ARC Ensemble’s Artistic Director, Simon Wynberg, ‘is its striking originality. There are flashes of Debussy, Bartók, and Stravinsky, and hints of Bohemian and klezmer music, but the end result is a world of inventiveness and surprises. It is an extraordinary blend of Eastern and Western traditions, both adventurous and accessible, and no less compelling for the eighty-year delay since its first performance.’


VC LIVE VIDEO | ARC Ensemble - ‘Chamber Works By Walter Kaufmann

ARC Ensemble Facebook page

VC INTERVIEW | Simon Wynberg - ARC Ensemble's Artistic Director



Press & critics


“… The ARC Ensemble play with impeccable musicality, and they’ve been beautifully recorded. Simon Wynberg’s booklet notes warrant the highest praise. Don’t let this one pass you by.”

Stephen Greenbank – – 1 December 2020


Editor’s Choice

An itinerant life that produced exciting, exotic music… This is part of a Chandos series called Music in Exile, recorded by the ARC Ensemble from Canada. They play Kaufmann’s music with care, excitement, and even abandon when necessary. I am particularly impressed with violinist Jamie Kruspe in the Sonata, whose portamento and tonal shading point up the music’s exoticism. Clarinettist Joaquin Valdepeñas produces a beautiful tone, and pianist Kevin Ahfat accompanies sensitively in both works. Sound quality is first class. Walter Kaufmann is well worth investigating.   *****

Phillip Scott – – 16 October 2020


“… Kaufmann wrote a huge amount, including a large portfolio of operas, eighty works with orchestra including six symphonies, a number of concertos, lots of songs and piano music. High praise goes to the players of ARC Ensemble and whilst it’s invidious to pick among them, Erika Raum and Kevin Ahfat star in the Sonata No.2 and Joaquin Valdepeñas makes a fine show in the Sonatina. There are fine notes, and the excellent recording quality ensures that these premiere recordings are heard in the best light. This ‘Music in Exile’ series also includes chamber works by Ben-Haim, Jerzy Fitelberg and Szymon Laks, and whilst there’s no indication that there will be a second volume devoted to Kaufmann his music certainly warrants increased exposure.”

Jonathan Woolf – – 12 November 2020


Performance ****      Recording ****

“… Of all the pieces compellingly performed by the ARC Ensemble. I am particularly taken by the Septet for the unusual combination of three violins, viola, two cellos and piano. This one-movement work presents striking juxtapositions between passages of fiercely percussive intensity and more reflective mysterious material, and encompasses an impressive range of emotions within its 15-minute duration. The Seventh and 12th Quartets are also attractive, as is the resourceful arrangement for clarinet and piano of Sonatina No. 12 for violin and piano, whose likeable dance movements could easily become a favoured repertoire piece for the instrument. Hopefully, the ARC Ensemble’s sterling efforts on behalf of this completely unknown composer will stimulate further exploration of Kaufmann’s output…”

Erik Levi – BBC Music magazine – November 2020


“… Their [ARC Ensemble] strongly Czech accent, tuneful and melancholic, dominates, with sudden darts into raga mood. Kaufmann’s music, nuanced and unexpected, deserves to be heard.”

Fiona Maddocks – The Guardian – 26 September 2020


"The ARC Ensemble have prepared this unfamiliar repertoire with care and a feeling for its beauties. I enjoyed Erika Raum’s sweet tone in the brief Second Violin Sonata and her quicksilver repartee with pianist Kevin Ahfat in Kaufmann’s sudden turns of thought […] Chandos and the ARC Ensemble would do everyone a favour by producing a second volume.” - Peter Quantrill Gramophone


Boston Globe - Top 10 classical music albums of 2020


The Toronto-based ARC Ensemble were at it again this year. No group has worked with such sustained commitment to illuminate the lives erased and the music cast into the shadows by the Second World War. Here they present the first album ever devoted to the worthy music of Walter Kaufmann, a Czech-Jewish composer who fled Nazi Europe to settle in Bombay.

Jeremy Eichler - Boston Globe - December 2020


classicalMPR New Classical Tracks: ARC Ensemble records the music of Walter Kaufmann for the first time


Winnipeg Free Press  Best Albums of 2020


“The ARC Ensemble performs these premiere recordings with daring and verve, doing great justice to Kaufmann’s intriguingly idiosyncratic style.”
Zev Kane - WQXR


“This fearlessly individualistic album features string quartets as well as pieces for smaller and larger ensembles (Kaufmann also wrote symphonies and operatic works), all composed during Kaufmann’s time in India. The first work here, played by violinists Erika Raum and Marie Bérard, violist Steven Dann and cellist Thomas Wiebe, is the String Quartet No. 11. It’s like nothing you’ve ever heard before. A sombre cello drone anchors an enigmatic, whole-tone-centric raga melody that the quartet take dancing in the brief, five-minute opening movement.”
delarue - New York Music Daily


“The discovery of the year. And, except for those who detest Indian idioms, unbeatable.”
Christophe Huss - Le Devoir


“It’s particularly striking how immediate, fresh and new Kaufmann’s 80-plus-year-old music
is in this significant contribution to the chamber music discography; it’s a celebration of the arresting artistry of a composer Winnipeg once proudly if briefly, hailed as one of its own.”

Holly Harris - Winnipeg Free Press


“[…] the works on this disc bring his exquisitely unique musical voice to life with uncommon drama and emotion. A feeling of loss and nostalgia characterizes much of this music,
often evoked by the haunting and transcendent classical Indian modalities […] This is a remarkable recording.”

Raul da Gama - World Music Report


“All the Chamber Works by Walter Kaufmann (Chandos), performed by the ARC Ensemble, part of its Music in Exile series, are world premiere recordings of pieces composed during his time in India. Their strongly Czech accent, tuneful and melancholic, dominates, with sudden darts into raga mood. Kaufmann’s music, nuanced and unexpected, deserves to be heard.”
Fiona Maddocks - The Guardian


“These are substantial works, in which plaintive solemnity alternates with emphatic, syncopated dances, all heavily imbued with Indian modal, melodic and rhythmic sequences. I found this engrossing mix of European and Asian traditions richly rewarding and hope that this superb CD will inspire more recordings of Kaufmann’s music. I’d love to hear them.”
Michael Schulman - The Whole Note


Label: Chandos
Cat number: CHAN 20170