Aureole etc.

Golden Age singers

Nimbus on-line

Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

Ernst BOEHE (1880-1938)
Symphonic Poems Vol.1

Tragische Ouvertüre Op.10 [18.38]
Aus Odysseus’ Fahrten Op.6 Nos.1-3 (1903-1905) [55.51]: Episodes for large orchestra: Ausfahrt und Schiffbruch (Departure and Shipwreck) [17.13]; Die Insel der Kirke (The Island of Circe) [19.03]; Die Klage der Nausikaa (Nausicaa’s Lament) [19.35]
Staatsphilharmonie Rheinland-Pfalz/Werner Andreas Albert
rec Ludwigshafen Philharmonie, Germany, November 2001 and May 2002
CPO 999 875-2 [74.29]


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It came as no surprise to learn that Ernst Boehe was a personal friend of Richard Strauss, because if there is one composer whose influence is to be heard here, it is his fellow Bavarian. It does come as a surprise, however, to find no mention of Boehe in Grove 6 or, more surprisingly, the German music dictionary MGG. Boehe’s career was that of a conductor, not at the highest levels by any means even within his own country, but in places like Oldenburg or the Saarland Palatinate. His music is lushly tuneful, densely orchestrated (he always seemed to write for large orchestral forces) and harmonically ‘safe’ considering the Second Viennese School was exactly contemporaneous and very active. Strauss was producing Salome at the time Boehe was writing his tone poem Odysseus.

Without a second disc we are at a disadvantage, despite CPO’s reassurance that Boehe designed them as independent episodes. Odysseus is a four-movement structure, like a symphony, and for reasons of length the fourth movement awaits on a later disc, but having listened to all three, one needs the concluding finale (apparently cyclical), which presumably depicts Odysseus’ return to his homeland of Ithaca to deal with Penelope’s suitors and be reunited with his son Telemachus. Max Bruch dealt with this subject back in 1872 but as a secular oratorio, and a marvellous work it is too, and of course Brahms wrote a Tragic Overture, so Boehe is clearly at a certain disadvantage. His Tragic Overture is nothing inspiring and one suspects purely a filler (or starter in this case) but Odysseus is altogether on another level. True it does meander in places, and one does have to refer to a synopsis to see which part of the saga is being described (even within movements there are episodes) but familiarity with the recurring motifs helps. The seductive flute, harp, solo violin and lightly orchestrated accompaniment (after a passage for solo bass clarinet) is a colourfully intense portrayal of Circe’s seductive but ultimately fruitless attempt on the virtuous Odysseus. The sea is evoked in the highly Wagnerian start to the third episode before Nausicaa’s flute lament, echoed by the cor anglais, and later taken up by a beautiful violin solo, which builds to a glorious orchestral climax.

The recording is in the safe hands of conductor Werner Andreas Albert, the orchestra (descended from Boehe’s own of the 1920s) generally coping well with the music’s sometimes considerable demands. One doesn’t see Boehe making it to concert hall programmes in the way his music was supposed to have done many years ago, for ‘his later works experienced hundreds of performances in Europe and America’ reads this unlikely claim by a contemporary observer. A splendid discovery, but I really wish CPO had invested in a two-CD complete package. Let us hope that the finale is not long in coming.

Christopher Fifield

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