Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

Music Webmaster
Len Mullenger:

Der Ferne Klang (1909) opera in 3 acts
Grete Graumann --- Elena Grigorescu (sop)
Fritz --- Thomas Harper (ten)
Dr Vigelius --- Andreas Haller (bass)
A Ham Actor --- Horst Fiehl (bar)
Old Graumann --- Rudiger Bunse (bass)
Old Graumann's wife --- Erica Pilari (mezzo)
Landlord --- Paul Friess (bass)
Woman's Voice --- Marisa Altmann-Althausen (mezzo)
Count --- Werner Hahn (bar)
Baron --- Peter Nikolaus Kante (bass)
Chevalier --- Reinhard Leisenheimer (ten)
and others
Chorus of Hagen Municpal Orchestra
Hagen PO/Michael Halasz
rec 2-7 Jan 1989
NAXOS OPERA CLASSICS 8.660074-75 CD1 63.48 + CD2 68.46 [132.28]

It has taken quite some time for Schreker's star to rise above the horizon below which it set on his death in 1934 (a fateful year which also saw the death of Holst, Elgar and Delius).

In the early 1980s interest began to rekindle. Classical Excellence issued some Austrian radio tapes of orchestral music and his operas began to attract attention.

Schreker (originally Schrecker) was of Austrian parentage of Jewish ancestry though born Monegasque. He studied with Robert Fuchs. His fame as a composer is linked with the theatre: Die Flammen (1902), Der Geburtstag der Infantin (1908), Das Spielwerk die Prinzessin, Die Gezeichneten (1918), Der Schatzgraber (1920), Irrelohe (1924), Christophorus (1927?), Der Singende Teufel (1928) and Der Schmied von Gent (1932).

Schreker rose to head the famous Berlin Hochschule between 1920 and 1932. He was unacceptable to the NSDAP* who manipulated his dismissal from the school in1933. He died a year later aged 56. His pupils included Berg, Webern, Krenek and Haba.

Schreker as a name is more familiar than his music. Often grouped with Zemlinsky the impression is given that he was a dodecaphonist. Nothing could be further from the truth as this set demonstrates.

In fact this major opera has more in common with Korngold's Die Kathrin, Othmar Schoeck's Massimilla Doni, Strauss's Rosenkavalier and Puccini's Turandot than with the strangulated harmonies of the later Schoenberg. He is intensely, not to say saturatedly, romantic. He uses his large orchestra with great discretion and is more prone to pointilliste effect (birdsong at track 11 CD2) than to obvious eruptive power although he is by no means an abstainer from voluptuous Puccinian expressiveness. Mahler is also a presence in his music. There are some glorious arias here. In track 3 (CD2) try Fritz's 'Schuldbeladen und reuig' and hear what I mean. There are so many moments of emotional eminence. If you are at all appreciative of the operatic ensemble then play track 17 of CD1.

The opera's erotic content was at first an obstacle to its completion but Strauss's Salome (produced in 1905) soon swept away any reservations. The story is involved but reduced to essentials: two lovers (Grete and Fritz) separate as Fritz, a romantic, insists on leaving to seek out a far distant enchanted music (the Ferne Klang of the title) that haunts him and draws him like a moth. Grete settles for other partners as Fritz disappears on his life's mission.Grete sinks into degradation. Fritz returns ten years later but is horrified to find out what has happened to Grete and leaves again. Five years later he returns and the lovers are reconciled with Fritz dying in Grete's forgiving arms and at last hearing the music he has sought so long. I have compressed the story but essentially that is the plot. The music has a great deal to live up to with that sort of magical idealism inferred so directly. In general Schreker is close to or meets and exceeds the equal of the challenge.

Regrettable that the two discs had to go into one of those double thickness cases but this was probably unavoidable if a fairly substantial leaflet is to be included. Here the booklet gives the full sung libretto in the original German only. There is a trilingual synopsis and notes. The tracking (generous) is linked to the German-only libretto.

Strongly recommended.

Rob Barnett

*Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei

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