Why do we not hear more about Chris Walton? He and Jecklin with the resources
of the Schoeck Society have been a veritable industry in bringing out into
the open Schoeck's very wide-ranging musical heritage. In this country we
think of Lewis Foreman, Chandos and the Bax Trust who have a similar standing.
How remarkable then that Mr Walton has achieved as much as he has. We can
only hope for a translation into English of his German language Schoeck book.
The present recording survived in the archives of Swiss Radio and came to
them via Strasburg Radio. This is the only recording of a Schoeck operatic
première to survive. In fact the recording is believed to have been
compiled from takes from both the first and second performances. The sound
quality is of course mono and is historic though better then you might guess
or fear. Certainly you get a reasonable impression of the music. There are
six substantial stretches of music (totalling about 45 mins) sandwiched between
the atmospheric and dramatic readings and scene settings (in German) of the
announcer who "acts" his words with some nice melodramatic touches.
The music is ripely late-romantic and is sung and played to the hilt. Opera
fanciers and singer-followers will certainly want this disc and there are
some famous names here and most are in fine voice.
The story has a potent mix of operatic elements: a brother and sister, the
brother is a huntsman, a mysterious lover who turns out to be the young count
Durande, an ancestral castle, Paris, woodland romance, Paris, the French
Revolution, self-sacrifice by one lover to save the other, the death of the
lover and a gunpowder explosion. The locale is the South of France and in
As Mr Walton points out we should not forget that almost rubbing shoulders
with this exalted singing and music was a savage World War and that those
attending this celebrated event would have included the cream of the Nazi
elite. Burte himself was a devout National Socialist. Schoeck had his
reservations about a Berlin première but such was the celebrity of
the promised première he could not resist the temptation and travelled
to Berlin to hear the premiere. After four performances its season was cancelled
probably due to the intervention of Hermann Goering who had read the libretto
and was truly appalled by it. Goering is better known in artistic circles
for his quote "whenever I hear the word Culture I reach for my revolver."
The music is full-blooded and flowingly romantic. It is old-fashioned and
anyone familiar with Puccini, Strauss (particularly of Rosenkavalier),
Pfitzner and (I expect) Siegfried Wagner will be at home with this music.
It is not original in its way of expressing ideas but it is certainly powerful.
The song (17:11) presents the longest song in his massive songbook completed
in 1947 Das Holde Bescheiden. The recording was made on a sequence
of 78s for friends and family. Such is the length of this sweetly nostalgic
song of lost youth that it had to be spread across quite a few 78 sides.
Schoeck made the transitions as painless as possible. As Chris Walton points
out, the poem celebrates an area (Urach in Swabia) which Schoeck and Armin
Rueger had walked in the long-gone innocent days of 1913 and before. Swabia
was also the Heimat of many poets set by Schoeck including Hölderlin,
Hesse, Mörike and Uhland.
The notes (55pp) by Mr Walton are in both German and English. The full text
of the extracts and of the song is given in the sung German and in English.
So this historic CD is for Schoeck completists, singer followers, historians
of German musical life during WWII, fans of Cebotari, Anders and Greindl.
A word of praise to Jecklin for their tasteful design of booklet and disc.
I hope that the other unrecorded operas will make it onto CD.