Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

Music Webmaster
Len Mullenger:

Reviews from other months
OTHMAR SCHOECK (1886-1957) Das Schloss Dürande (1939) EXCERPTS opera to words by Hermann Burte from novella by Eichendorff Berlin State Opera - singers: Peter Anders, Marta Fuchs, Willi  Domgraf-Fassbaender, Maria Cebotari, Josef Greindl. orch conducted by  Robert Heger  Recording of highlights - German Imperial Radio. April 1943. Besuch in Urach (from Das holde Bescheiden op 62) Hilde Schoeck (sop) composer (piano). Jecklin JD 692-2



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 Paris.

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.


Rob Barnett

Reviewer Rob Barnett

Return to Index