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Verbotene Klange. Komponisten im Exil/Forbidden Sounds. Composers in Exile
Alexander ZEMLINSKY (1871-1942)

Drei Ballettstücke Triumph der Zeit (1903)
Philharmonisches Staatsorchester Hamburg/Gerd Albrecht
Franz SCHRECKER (1878-1934)

Schwanensang Op.11
WDR Rundfunkchor und Rundfunkorchester Köln/Peter Gülke
Erwin SCHULHOFF (1894-1942)

Duo for Violin and Violoncello (1925)
Gernot Süssmuth (violin)
Hans-Jakob Eschenburg (cello)
Viktor ULLMANN (1898-1944)

Don Quixote tanzt Fandango (1944) – reconstructed from the short score by Bernhard Wulff
Gürzenich Orchester Köln/James Conlon
Paul HINDEMITH (1895-1963)

Trumpet Sonata (1939)
Reinhold Friedrich (trumpet)
Thomas Duis (piano)
Arnold SCHOENBERG (1874-1951)

Verklärte Nacht for string orchestra Op.4 (1943)
Camerata Academica des Mozarteums Salzburg/Sandor Végh
Egon WELLESZ (1885-1974)

Symphonischer Epilog (1969)
Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin/Roger Epple
Darius MILHAUD (1892-1974)

String Quartet No.1 Op.5 (1912)
Petersen Quartet
Hanns EISLER (1898-1962)

Kleine Sinfonie Op.29 (1931/32)
Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin/Hans E Zimmer
Franz WAXMAN (1906-1967)

Athanael the Trumpeter – comedy overture for trumpet and orchestra (1944)
Joachim Pliquett (trumpet)
Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin/Hans E Zimmer
Kurt WEILL (1900-1950)

Die Dreigroschenoper (1928) – two excerpts from historic recordings
Die Seeräuberjenny sung by Lotte Lenya
Die Moritat von Mackie Messer sung by Gisela May with a studio orchestra/Henry Krtischl
Ernst KRENEK (1900-1991)

Zwölf Variationen in drei Sätzen Op.79 (1937)
Till Alexander Körber (piano)
Paul DESSAU (1894-1979)

Hagadah Shel Pessach; Oratorio in Three Parts (1934-36) From Part 2 Midnight Hymn
Chor des Norddeutschen Rundfunks/Philharmonisches Staatsorchester Hamburg/Gerd Albrecht
Manfred GURLITT (1890-1972)

Wozzeck – Musical Tragedy Op. 16 (1926) – Scenes 17, 18 and Epilogue
Wozzeck – Roland Hermann (bass baritone)
Marie – Celina Lindsley (soprano)
Gabrielle Schreckenbach (contralto)
RIAS Kammerchor/Deutsches Symphonie Orchester Berlin/Gerd Albrecht
Recorded by German radio stations, undated
CAPRICCIO 67 097-99 [3 CDs 69.53 + 76.09 + 56.30]


The Banned Music series from Decca has unearthed some rich material from Europe’s darker past and Forbidden Sounds is Capriccio’s contribution to the excavation of proscribed music. There are fourteen composers represented, some obvious, some less so, and the works range from those by Zemlinsky, Schrecker and Schoenberg from around the turn of the twentieth century (Schoenberg’s Verklärte Nacht is heard here in its 1943 orchestration) to Wellesz’s 1969 Symphonischer Epilog. So this is very much a set predicated on exile and not necessarily banned works (though of course some, indeed most, were inevitably to be so in Nazi dominated and occupied Europe.)

Some of these performances, culled from radio broadcasts from a number of German stations, have been previously released on disc and won’t be new to assiduous collectors, though I must say apart from Vegh’s Verklärte Nacht most were unknown to me. A strong exception can be made for the anomalous inclusion of two small excerpts from historic recordings of Weill – surely everyone has heard Lotte Lenya and Gisela May’s renditions from the Threepenny Opera from the 1930s and they do seem more than somewhat out of place here. Why not a suite or a contemporary performance? Still it’s a mere five or so minutes’ worth of puzzlement and we can savour much of the rest.

Zemlinsky’s Triumph der Zeit, three ballet pieces, dates from 1903. It’s variously fresh and verdant with an admixture of Brucknerian-Wagnerian burnish and weight, robust in the second piece and bracing and breezy in the third with some Elgarian-sounding trombones and biting winds. Schrecker illustrates more of the cusps of movements in his evocative choral piece, the Op.11 Schwanensang. Crudely speaking this is on the cusp of Wagnerism and Impressionism with a stubborn spine of Brahmsian choral writing (it’s more than once reminiscent of the German Requiem). But there’s nothing assiduously academic about it and it makes a strong case for Schrecker’s burgeoning individuality of utterance. We tend to think of Erwin Schulhoff in terms of the 1930s and the last works written in extremis in 1941 and 1942 (the year of his death) so it’s always good to be reminded of the mid-1920s Schulhoff. Here we have the Duo for Violin and Cello, written before he adopted a more rigid compositional outlook influenced by Soviet Social Realism. This looks more to Kodály (and his Op.7 Duo in particular which Schulhoff must have known) and is a tautly argued four-movement work. Süssmuth and Eschenburg catch the folk inflections and the discreet modernity, the Hungariana and the fine driving conclusion very well. They are tighter all round in matters of tempo than a long admired version of mine by Antonín Novák and Václav Bernášek on Praga – though the Czech pairing gives more room for lyrical evocation.

His fellow Czech, Viktor Ullmann, is represented by Don Quixote, a nine-minute Overture, reconstructed from the short score by Bernhard Wulff. It was one of the composer’s last works, written in the year of his murder in the gas chamber, 1944. It’s a late Romantic work, ripely orchestrated, with a strong part for solo violin but also with lighter, more aerated writing and a rugged march. The dance courses through it. To conclude the first disc we have Hindemith’s masterly Trumpet Sonata – commanding, clear, and played with a bright penetrating tone by Reinhold Friedrich. Pianist Thomas Duis proves a most sympathetic partner and together they explore the consolatory chorale that threads its way through the Trauermusik finale – very moving and effective.

Sandor Végh’s Schoenberg is mildly disappointing. He never lacked for emotional ardour or honesty but this is a rather fitful performance. Luckily it won’t tip the odds because you won’t be buying this set for the Schoenberg even in its 1943 orchestrated guise. Wellesz wrote his Symphonischer Epilog in 1969, five years before his death. It’s tough, dramatic, knotty and written in a post Schoenbergian idiom. The snarl and impress of inevitable dissolution is halted briefly by a moment of brief, illusory reprieve – before a brutal, brusque conclusion. The whole work is tautly argued and impressively, unarguably brittle. Milhaud marks an immediate change in temperature. His 1912 Quartet is a joyous, echt Debussyian, diatonic delight, the two violinists of the excellent Petersen Quartet conjoining in the second movement in luscious tonal tandem. This is the first of Milhaud’s Quartets and unusually sports two slow movements, the second eerier by far – even with hints of a Verklärte Nacht, so it’s perhaps apt casting after all to place this work so near the putative source. The finale is buoyant and oddly reminiscent of Vaughan Williams’ sound world. Eisler’s Kleine Sinfonie continues the eclectic brew of this second disc – a royal mix of Mossolov, brittle trumpets, sardonic cabaret, tough Schoenbergian influence, Renaissance brass hints, Chorale, mordant Weimar saxophones and Kit Kat Club heavy drapes. Did Britten listen to the Allegro finale of this work – the string writing anticipates Britten’s own uncannily. The conductor by the way is Hans E Zimmer, perhaps better known for his epic film music scores.

The final disc starts with Waxman and his hungry hints of Mussorgsky’s Pictures in the boldly named Athanael the Trumpeter – some characteristically verdant orchestration as well and some typical Waxman fingerprints. I reviewed Krenek’s Zwölf Variationen in drei Sätzen recently on this site when they appeared in an all-Krenek Capriccio disc. The Twelve Variations are commendably cogent – they’re grouped into three (5, 3 and 4 variations) and elliptical, tangential composition is the order of the day. The second group of three - two adagios and an allegretto – rises and crests on waves of brow-furrowing ambiguity, intensely compressed and ultimately rather bleak. The final Adagio variation seems to be slipping away but then ends on a note of absolute defiance. I can’t tell what musico-biographical forces may have been at work in this 1937 work but one can guess and they seem unignorable. Paul Dessau was an uneven composer, a student of Schoenberg, collaborator with Brecht and best known for his post War Social Realist works. We have here a twelve-minute fragment from his oratorio Hagadah Shel Pessach, written between 1934 and 1936. It’s difficult to assess the work at all from this section of Part II but it’s predominately grey in colour with some aggressive rhythmic passages and the choral writing is assured and strong. Finally – at last if you’re still with me – to Manfred Gurlitt. Old timers or younger fogies will know him best as an orchestral conductor, because he was a prestigious music director and recording artist in Berlin, but he was also a prolific composer (eight operas for a start). He emigrated to Japan in 1939 after having been written off as a "Cultural Bolshevik" and died in Tokyo in 1972. The small segments from the end of his 1926 Wozzeck show an eclectic, serious minded composer at work – writing serious and suitably tense, glowering music.

The collector is left with a conundrum. Though the recorded quality from broadcast material varies it’s never less than acceptable and often much more. Performances are fully committed and agile and idiomatic. The booklet biographical notes, tri-lingual (German, English and French) are cogent, if brief. The disparate nature of the programme will probably determine how necessary the purchase is.

Jonathan Woolf


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