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Fritz BRUN (1878-1959)
Symphony No. 5 (1929) [38:03]
Symphony No. 10 (1935) [30:27]
Moscow Symphony Orchestra/Adriano
rec. Mosfilms Studios, Moscow, December 2006
GUILD GMCD 7320 [68:30]
Experience Classicsonline

Swiss-born conductor-composer Adriano has always championed music by Late-Romantic composers. Film music and the music of Ottorino Respighi have been among his specialities. Now for this Guild CD, he has turned his attention again to the music of the relatively little known Swiss composer, Fritz Brun who was born in Lucerne and studied with, amongst others, Willem Mengelberg. In 1901 he became private "music maker" and teacher of Prince George of Prussia who acted as friend and mentor to the young Swiss musician. He settled once again in Switzerland in 1903 where he was to compose all his subsequent works including, besides ten symphonies, concertos for piano and cello, settings of Goethe for choir and orchestra, and songs.

Brun’s Fifth Symphony begins in gloom. Double-basses dictate a dark cavernous atmosphere with low woodwinds adding desolate voices. Crushing staccato chords add menace and, at about 5:20, sardonic, derisive figures augment the movement’s pessimism. Adriano in his own notes to the symphony refers to Brun’s modest ‘Brahmsian’ orchestral strength with percussion reduced to timpani and the meager addition of just a double bassoon and a bass tuba. There is a certain Brahmsian influence too, to this bleak, tragic movement. The nightmare continues into the short second movement, a nocturnal scherzo. This is however no sylvan pastoral romance - rather music that is unsettling and creepy with spectral murmurings and hammerings. It’s music that one might associate with a horror film – a sort of mix of Berlioz and Bernard Herrmann. The third movement, as revealed to Hermann Scherchen who conducted one of the first performances of this symphony, was intended as a funeral ode to the composer Hermann Suter. Brun wrote of Suter that he was, "a strongly profiled man; he loved animals, nature and solitude; he demanded much but also gave much, in a reserved, chaste manner." It is elegiac and affectionate yet much of this third movement is devoted to a quite realistic description of the agony and sufferings, and the final crisis of the hopelessly sick man that was Suter, with telling use of nervous string figurations, tremolandi and trills. The fourth movement, with tempo indicated to be ‘fast and furious’, of this caustic, unsettling and haunted (perhaps autobiographical?) symphony, continues the bleak mood of what has gone before.

Brun’s final Symphony, No. 10, completed in 1953 when he was 75, is more optimistic. Its influences were the final lines of the allegorical poem that had already been set to music by Hugo Wolf – Mörike’s Im Frühling (In Springtime); and the view from Brun’s home across to Lake Lugano. The influence of Schumann is also discernible. The joyful freshness of Spring is contrasted with more turbulent material suggesting stormier seasons. The second movement, a somewhat nervous scherzo, begins solemnly but the music soon turns joyous; with folk-like material abounding. One is reminded of Schumann’s ‘Spring’ Symphony and the lighter touch of Mendelssohn. The Symphony’s Adagio has a lovely meditative theme for strings full of yearning, although occasional shadows might suggest an odd April shower. The majestic final Vivace begins cheerily but the mood darkens and the music alternates between folkdance-like material and episodes that suggest a hostile environment of, as Adriano suggests, "a climatically more extreme landscape than that of Southern Switzerland".

Intense and emotional music – challenging listening for the adventurous.

Ian Lace


Symphony No. 9 Guild GMCD 7306
Symphony No. 3 Sterling CDS-1059-2


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