James Conlon has championed
the music of many unfashionable composers.
His Zemlinsky series with the Gürzenich
Orchestra for EMI Classics is outstanding
and very collectible. In 1999 he was
awarded the International Alexander
Zemlinsky Prize for his services worldwide
in performing and promoting Zemlinsky's
works. There are also isolated discs
of Schreker. Conlon has recorded Zemlinsky
operas for Capriccio as did Antony Beaumont.
He now strikes out in support of Erwin
Schulhoff who died in captivity in the
Wülzburg Fortress in Bavaria.
There are eight Schulhoff
symphonies although the last two never
got beyond piano score. The Fifth
was written under the shadow of
the Munich Agreement and the threat
of the disintegration of Czechoslovakia.
You can feel this in every cataclysmic
bar - especially under the bludgeoning,
menace and violence of the first and
third movements. The riotous tumult
of the third movement can be related
to the romping thunderous assault of
the Pettersson symphonies and even to
the minatory grumbling of Vaughan Williams’
Fourth and Sixth. I wonder if Shostakovich
saw this music before writing the Leningrad
Symphony. There is a bitter and
determined air to the finale which nevertheless
strikes me as having rather over-reached
its material. The whole work is alive
with stirring military atmosphere, brass
gestures and gritty attack but all purged
of disillusion or sarcastic commentary.
The 1921 Suite is
jazzy, soloistic and full of snappy
Weimar flavour. There is Ravel-like
delicacy in the Valse Boston.
A touch of Façade in this.
The Second Symphony
is a delicate instrument orchestrated
with aural lucidity. It is not neo-classical
at least not in the sense of the Parisian
works of that era. There is a sangfroid
to the third movement with saxophone
and guitar bound up in recollections
of Bolero. The finale
is a strange kaleidoscope of Mozartian
and Beethovenian gestures. Altogether
an unresolved oddball work.
This is the second
disc in Capriccio's equivalent of Universal's
Entartete series. The first is
of Viktor Ullmann CD 67 017 (Symphonies
1 and 2)[review].
There is also a Capriccio DVD - Estranged
Passengers: In search of Viktor Ullmann.
Schulhoff was a resolute
Communist. He obtained Soviet citizenship
at the end of the 1930s. His Fourth
symphony of 1937 uses the Spanish Civil
War poem Dying in Madrid. His
Eighth Symphony Heroic Symphony for
Marx, Lenin and Stalin used quotations
from these three figures in the first
movement: We Stand United.
(and readable!) notes from Andreas Krause.
I owe it to Mr Krause that I can tell
you that Schulhoff's Sixth Symphony
(1940) was premiered in 1946 in Prague
as the Soviet occupation began to bite.
The Sixth Freedom Symphony is
dedicated, like previous symphonies
by Gadzhiev and Knipper, to the Red
Overview: plenty of
variety; one symphony of violence another
of collaged classical influence. An
entertaining suite to top things off.