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Schubert Epilog
Luciano BERIO (1925-2003)

Rendering per orchestra (1988-90) [34:07]
Aribert REIMANN (b. 1936)

Metamorphosen über ein Menuett von Schubert (D 600) für 19 Instrumente (1997) [7:57}
Hans Werner HENZE (b. 1926)

Der Erlkönig Orchesterfantasie aus "Le Fils de Líair) (1996) [5.33]
Hans ZENDER (b. 1936)

Schubert Chöre 1-4 (1996) [17:37]
Kurt SCHWERTSIK (b. 1936)

Epilog zu "Rosamund" (1978) [11.19]
Chör der Bamberger Symphoniker,
Bamberger Symfoniker/Jonathan Nott
rec. Joseph Keilberth Saal, Bamberg, July 2002-January 2003. DDD
in conjunction with Bayerische Rundfunk München
TUDOR 7131 [77:13]


Darmstadt doctrine may have made a fuss of dispensing with the old. But, like many statements by its proponents it was made for show, and to shock. Its composers were far too good to swallow the buzz phrases whole, as some of their opponents did. This recording is a collection of new compositions by modern composers based on their explorations of Schubert. It can be listened to on many levels.

Berioís Rendering is easily the best known piece on its own terms. Written specially for his friend Riccardo Chailly, to be performed by the Royal Concertgebouw, Amsterdam, it is a good example of what Berio meant about making the past speak anew. Berio uses those fragments remaining to us of Schubertís Tenth Symphony, but writes a completely new work, informed by the Unfinished Symphony, and Berioís own synthesis. In the definitive notes to the score, he describes his work as restoring a fresco. What remains is kept intact, but the restored missing parts, though modern, enhance them. "In the empty spaces between one sketch and the next there is a kind of connective tissue which is constantly different and changing, always pianissimo and distant, intermixed with reminiscences (and) polyphonic textures." Berioís "musical cement", is more fascinating than he modestly puts it. There are several recordings, and excerpts of it on the excellent recent Frank Scheffer DVD. Nott and the Bamberger Symphoniker, are rather good in the elegant Schubert passages, if a little less acute in the Berio ones. The shimmering, ambiguously toned parts in the second movement could be more precisely defined. When the celesta heralds the "cement" in the third movement, the orchestra sounds underpowered and does not recover until the later, flamboyant bars before dissolving into Berioís startling, amorphous abstraction. The final, boisterous ending is well done, but had Nott aimed for overall greater contrast it might have been more effective.

Reimannís Metamorphosen was written for Gidon Kremerís Camerata. This is unabashedly "modern", any Schubertian lyricism deeply buried by the much more dominant Reimann inventions for woodwinds, strings and brass. Playing in small ensemble, the soloists sound strangely liberated; the horn in particular is very animatedly played. However, as music the piece is a little too self-conscious for my personal taste. Unlike the Berio, which grows with repeat listenings, Metamorphosen becomes predictable. In complete contrast is the Henze fantasy on Erlkönig. It didnít spring from a commission, but from sheer inspiration, to use a hackneyed term. Coming across a discarded fragment of his own work after thirty years, Henzeís imagination brought forth an explosive new vision of the ideas in Schubertís song. He makes no pretence at recreating the song, apart from capturing the same manic sense of urgency. The result is demonic indeed, ideas surging out with such violence that they hardly develop before being adapted into other, new ideas. It is far more ambivalent than the ballet for which it was eventually used, where a boy becomes a man through dance and art. It is as if Henze was intuiting levels in the original which neither Schubert nor Goethe were in a position to express openly. Here at last, we hear what this excellent orchestra is really capable of. They attack with great precision, percussion in the lead, pounding inexorably. Henze fleshes the music out with what the booklet aptly calls "iridescent flute and unearthly harmonics embedded in the colours of vibra- and marimbaphone, harp and celesta." The playing at last is completely passionate and involved. The whole piece is barely five minutes long, ending as suddenly as it starts. As Henze himself was to say, audiences arenít expected to perceive all its levels at once. Iíve had this one on regular repeat play and still feel thereís so much to learn. There may not be a note of Schubert here, but Henze is far closer in spirit to what Schubert was depicting in his bizarre, disturbing original.

Zender understood the Darmstadt zeal for shaking up complacency. The four songs here were written long before the notorious Zender Winterreise which provoked such outraged reactions from Schubert traditionalists. Zenderís aim certainly wasnít to "replace" Schubert, but to counteract stifling performance tradition from burying the workís true revolutionary soul. Here, Zender simply replaces the piano part with orchestral accompaniment, leaving the vocal part as is. Nothing unusual in that per se: there are plenty of Schubert song orchestrations, most of them undistinguished. Zenderís have the composerís quirky fingerprints, such as what sounds like manic glockenspiel in Der Gondelfahrer. Its bizarre mechanical ending mimics the rocky rhythms of the choir.

Surprisingly, when his wit is subtle, as in Die Nacht ist heiter, all Zender does is amplify Schubertís lyricism with humorous zest. The tenor here is Carsten Süss, who sounds like a young Peter Schreier, no less! It sounds remarkably like an opera set-piece, with gorgeous tenor, choir and voluminous, soaring orchestra. What fun it would be to try this on unsuspecting opera buffs. Schwertsikís Epilogue zu Rosamunde, in contrast, doesnít sound in the least bit tongue-in-cheek. Using themes from Schubertís Rosamunde and the Wandererfantasie itís innocuous, though the Bambergers play it with characteristic warmth and sheen.

Altogether, though, this is an uneven recording and it is mainly for those with a specialist interest in the composers and their take on the Schubert tradition. And the Bamberger Symphoniker are always worth listening to!

Anne Ozorio

 



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