Schoecks chamber and orchestral music should not be missed by anyone
who enjoys late romantic music of the twentieth century. His profound lyricism
(he was dubbed the Swiss Schubert) is no doubt a legacy of his
devotion to the human voice as are his eight operas (three of which have
been recorded) and his more than 300 songs.
This issue upholds Guilds high reputation in inspired choice of repertoire,
artistic standards and technical excellence. Guild have previously issued
very highly recommendable CDs of the two Goossens violin sonatas coupled
with Vaughan Williams, Elgar and Ireland (Oliver Lewis/Jeremy Filsell). The
sound is immediate and attractive. You feel as if you are seated three stalls
back at the front of a small chamber concert hall.
Paul Barritt and Catherine Edwards give insightful performances catching
the many moods in these sonatas. Both will be known for their previous recordings
on Hyperion of the Howells and Ireland sonatas (both worth exploring if you
enjoy the Schoeck pieces).
The 1909 sonata (17) is a flowing work of great charm and in the first
of its three movements a great deal more. The first movement is a great lyrical
outpouring without the congestion of sound which occasionally is to be found
in works of high romanticism. The last two movements are perhaps rather
conventional and Beethovenian but they are never less than enjoyable.
The 1931 sonata (21) is tougher and full of invention. I must not give
the impression that Schoeck abandons lyricism. He seems quite unable to do
that, thank heavens. However the music seems sparer and more of the sinews
show through. The music has a fresh singing quality but is somehow more knowing.
No doubt the Great War had swept away some of the happier illusions and
The two sonatas (1909, 1931) have been recorded previously (Jecklin LP?)
by Ulrik Lehman and Charles Dobler though I do not recall seeing these on
CD. In any event the sound on the Lehman is rather distanced though the
performances are certainly sweet. Lehmann, by the way, had recorded the violin
concerto and this was issued (coupled with the horn concerto) on the US Mace
label during the 1970s. The recording on that LP was very upfront and oppressive.
Strangely enough, the 1905 sonata (here receiving its world première
recording) sounds to my ears more individual than the 1909 work. - certainly
than its last two movements. The confidently mercurial flow of the music
is remarkable. A fine discovery.
The superb notes are by Chris Walton whose book (currently in German only)
on Schoeck is THE authority on this composer. Not so long ago I saw racks
of Jecklin Schoeck CDs being sold off cheap in London. I wish I had trusted
my judgement then and bought them. The (trilingual) notes have a rewarding
density of detail as well as a light hand when it comes to the technicalities
of the music. From these emerges the twin stories of Schoeck and the violinist
with whom he fell passionately in love, Stefi Geyer (1888-1956). Geyers
beauty is clear from the photo in the Guild booklet. Her spirit and
Schoecks love for her are deeply entwined in the Op 16 work and in
the final charming 2 minute Albumblatt. Neither Schoeck nor Bartók
were to have any amorous success with Geyer. She married first a Swiss lawyer
and later an obscure Swiss composer Schulthess. Bartók dedicated his
first violin concerto and the first of his Two Portraits to her and his passion
for her is reflected in his first string quartet. Schoecks violin concerto
is dedicated to her and she recorded it during World War 2 in Zurich. All
the works on the Guild CD were played by her and the 1905 work, though written
before Schoeck knew her, was premiered by her in its revised version in 1954.
The CD is entitled Swiss Romanticism I. I wonder what they have in store
for the next volume? I do hope that there will be a German Romanticism series
as well. I would like to nominate Joseph Marxs Fruhlingssonate and
the 50 violin sonata in A major (1913) as candidates for a single CD.
This Schoeck CD is extremely valuable and desirable: music never less than
enjoyable, performances sensitive; two world premieres; good sound and fine
scholarly notes. Recommended.