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Trails of Creativity:
Music from Between the Wars - Vienna-Berlin-London: 1918-1938
Hans GÁL (1890-1987)

Violin Sonata in D (1933) [25.32]
Karol RATHAUS (1895-1954)

Suite Op. 27 (1927) [14.26]
Frederick ROSSE (1895-1954) arr. Albert SAMMONS (1886-1957)

Suite: The Merchant of Venice (1905 arr. 1921) [18.48]
Erich Wolfgang KORNGOLD (1897-1957)

Suite: Much Ado About Nothing Op. 11 (1920) [13.43]
William WALTON (1902-1983)

Toccata (1922-23) [15.46]
Adolf BUSCH (1891-1952)

Suite in G minor Op. 38 (1927) [15.16]
Egon WELLESZ (1885-1974)

Suite Op. 56 (1937 rev 1957) [11.19]
Kurt WEILL (1900-1950) arr. Stefan FRENKEL (1902-1979)

Seven Pieces from The Threepenny Opera (1930) [13.30]
Ivor GURNEY (1890-1937)

The Apple Orchard; Scherzo (1920s) [3.19+4.49]
David Frühwirth (violin)
Henri Sigfridsson (piano)
rec. 29 July - 2 Aug 2002, St Martin's Church, East Woodhay, Berkshire. DDD
AVIE AV0009 [73.16 + 64.56]

Experience Classicsonline

This is a concept album in which linkages of friendship between Gál, Rathaus, Busch, Frenkel, Wellesz and Weill are emphasised. Others do not quite fit but their music is of the same era and often of a similar style give or take a shading here and there. Gál's Sonata is in three movements. The lightly Brahmsian first and final movements are intimate dialogues suggesting friends just as much at ease in mutual silence as in conversation. The scherzo sings kindly in its own central section separating two ripplingly active motoric sections of skittering fairytale enchantment. This is a lovely discovery and must make us eager to hear his 1920 Violin Sonata (No. 1).

I have written about Rathaus before. His orchestral music is on a Centaur anthology (reviewed elsewhere on this site). This Suite proclaims a scathing independence from Brahmsian heritage. The work is characterised by Schoenbergian skills, Bartókian drive and the humour of the graveyard. The work is dedicated to Stefan Frenkel. Rathaus was born in Galicia, lived in Berlin but seeing the writing on the wall he left for Paris in 1932 and thence to London and the USA where he died in 1954.

Another gear-change takes us to Sammons' arrangement of Rosse's theatre music for a 1905 production of The Merchant of Venice. This is light music, sweet-toned, poetic, sentimental, akin to early Delius with a helping of Schumann along the way in the two marches (Oriental and Doge's). The predominant slower music is much more effective than the marches.

Toscha Seidel and Mischa Elman among many others played Korngold's suite (the third suite on CD1) for its sunset sentiment (at its giddy peak in Garden Scene) and its dense romance. The Hornpipe sounds fake-antique; the sort of thing Respighi did in Gli Uccelli.

The Gál, Rathaus, Rosse, Walton, Busch, Wellesz and Gurney (the scherzo) are all premiere recordings.

The substantial Walton Toccata comes from the formative period of the early 1920s. A reference work of that time lists Walton's pedagogic overture Doctor Syntax (whatever happened to that?) as well as The Passionate Shepherd for tenor and small orchestra. The stocky and unpredictably taciturn Toccata is a work in which Bartók's Allegro Barbaro style is threaded through with the luxuriance of Szymanowski and the complexity of expressionistic early Schoenberg. This is not at all what you may have been expecting and is an example of the road Walton did not pursue. After this the slightly updated Mozartianisms of the Busch suite, while well crafted and full of easy charm, seem almost too facile - the exception being the lovely Andante Cantabile which proclaims its blood relationship with the Gál suite. This continues into the introduction to the finale but then sinks back into conventionality - albeit very polished. The Wellesz casts off such smooth accomplishment and bears to the Busch the same relationship as the Gál does to the Rathaus except that the dissonance of the Wellesz is rooted in Bach's sonatas and partitas rather than the wilder territories of the Second Viennese school. In the second of the two movements Wellesz touches on the sort of sinister gawky ghoul dances beloved of Shostakovich. Of course popular culture, the tango, sleazy macabre and knowing romance are very much the currency of Weill in Frenkel's reduction of the Seven Pieces from The Threepenny Opera. Frühwirth relishes the famous ballad but also makes hay with Polly's Song.

The Hogarthian mean-spirited life of the Weill opera contrasts most startlingly with the two Gurney pieces. These have in common only the madness of Gurney pushed beyond tolerance by the Great War. When he wrote these two sketches he was only three years away from being certified. The music is gentle without being genteel. The Scherzo is a delicate early Beethovenian dance with a slight Scottish flavour. The Apple Orchard is much closer to the accustomed pastoralism represented by Howells, Butterworth's A Shropshire Lad and Bridge's Summer.

Such a pity that there was no room for Joseph Holbrooke’s Third Violin Sonata Orientale. It would have fitted perfectly in the lyrical facet of this company.

Admirable artistic and technical values throughout. I hope for further refreshingly original themed collections along these lines.

Rob Barnett


See also review by John Leeman


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