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Kurt SCHWERTSIK (b.1935)
Sinfonia-Sinfonietta 5 Sätze für Orchester op. 73 (1995-96)
(1. Sehr schnell und wild [03:48]; 2. Ruhiger Ländler [02:49]; 3. Überstürzt, ungeduldig vorantreibend [04:15]; 4. Andantino (molto espresssivo, poco rubato) [05:02]; 5. Geschwindmarsch flott und entschlossen (deciso, molto allegro) [04:08])
Konzert für Violine und Orchester No. 2 Albayzin und Sacromonte op. 81 (2000)
(Ruhigfließende halbe [07:43]; Tango - lntermezzo [01:50])
Schrumpf-Symphonie op. 80 (1999) Allegro [09:12]
Soloist: Christian Altenburger, violin Dennis Russell Davies, conductor
(1. Allegro con brio [01:07]; 2. Moderato alla marcia [01:08]; 3. Poco allegretto ma molto dolce [01:59]; 4. Avanti, avanti: presto vivace! [01:29])
Dennis Russell Davies, conductor
Goldlöckchen op. 74 (1997)
Libretto von Donald Sturrock, basierend auf Roald Dahl's "Goldilocks", deutsche Übersetzung von Kurt Schwertsik) (1. Fanfare [00:36]; 2. Flottes Präludium [01:14]; 3. Einzugsmarsch [03:46]; 4. Goldlöckchens lieblicher Tanz [02:38]; 5. Böser Bärentanz [01:48]; 6. Goldlöckchens tückischer Tanz [02:11]; 7. Promenade der Bären [02:37]; 8. Goldlöckchens Mahlzeit [02:09]; 9. Melodram [02:13]; 10. Goldies Wut [02:14]; 11. Übelriechendes Melodram [01:36]; 12. Goldie schläft [02:42]; 13. Melodram [00:51]; 14. Goldlöckchens Flucht [01:40]; 15. Melodram [00:51]; 16. Beratungsmusik [02:04]; 17. Freudentanz [02:24])
Kurt Schwertsik, speaker and conductor
Christian Altenburger (violin)
Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra/Dennis Russell Davies
rec. Goldenen Wiener Musikvereinsaal, 12 June 1996 (Sinfonia; Festival Klangspuren, Schwarz Tirol, 29 Sept 2000 (concerto); Millenniumskonzert im Mozarteum Salzburg, 31 Dec 1999; Royal Concert Hall, Glasgow 18 Dec 1997

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Across eighty minutes playing time Oehms offer four major orchestral works by Kurt Schwertsik.

The Sinfonia-Sinfonietta is in five movements. A plungingly headlong first movement is well marked Sehr schnell und wild. The material includes a marcato figure recalling the fate motif from Beethoven 5 which returns in the Übertürzt. The Ruhiger ländler is a slow limp-and-hop piece which transforms into a super Mahlerian dance and then melts into a surreal waltz. The strikingly dreamy andantino marries the emotion of Barber with Berg's rapt absorption in beauty. The Geschwindmarsch finale is in similar territory to Hindemith in jolly mood but becomes increasingly ruthless - a mood closer to that of the first movement. The music is always brilliant and when lively recalls a Mahler scherzo.

The Sinfonia-Sinfonietta is dedicated to Traudl and Fritz Cerha. It was premiered by the artists who made this recording in the Goldener Wiener Musikvereinssaal.

I mentioned Berg and the silvery diaphany and glittering mistiness of the Violin Concerto No. 2 has somewhat in common with the Berg concerto without quite the same dodecaphonic element. It's a case of Berg into Szymanowski 1 into Barber. This is a saturated aspiringly romantic piece but with orchestral textures kept trim and not a note wasted. There are some filmy fragile whistling birdsong moments (3.35). The central panel is a tango-inflected cadenza like 20th century Paganini. The final allegro is more of this earth than the first movement. It is memorable for its weaving of hand-clapping, a strong Hispanic nocturnal flavour and a propulsive Schuman-like line for the violin. Later this momentum is dissipated although it returns with its American metropolitan intensity as the work pummels its way to its final ‘punch’. Over and through that sustained impact the violin silkily ascends to the heights of the scale and into silence. This is not so much Nights in the Gardens of Spain as nocturnal wanderings in the streets of Granada. Albaycin and Sacromonte are two districts in the city of Granada.

Christian Altenburger is a tense and worthy soloist throughout, responding to the demands for ruthless activity and to the less easily channelled fantasy inherent in this Iberian work.

The Concerto was premiered by the same artists in 2000 at the Klangspuren Festival in Schwarz/Tyrol.

The Schrumpfsinfonie is in four fleetingly short movements; none longer than two minutes. Once again the orchestration is crystalline but the material is full of life, ranging from Pulcinella jocular to a romantic sense of time and transience in the Poco allegretto (tr. 11). The wickedly witty Avanti is Schwertsik-typical. The Beethoven ‘fate’ motif connects with Pulcinella-style wind writing made emphatic by drum punctuation. It ends in a confident gentle gesture from the flute.

Schwertsik is the conductor and speaker in Goldilocks - a 33 minute fantasy with orchestra in which the story is told from the podium. The narration is of course in German which is printed in Oehms' booklet but without translation into English. The work is based on Roald Dahl's Goldilocks story and includes the darker side along with charm and golden smiles.

The whole thing is charming, speaking with a knowing adult sensibility through chimes and sighs about childhood things. The Einzugsmarsch resembles nothing so much as the start of Heldenleben held up to a John Williams film score.

Schwertsik acts the piece, drawing inventively on a wide range of mood and colour.

Once again we hear Schwertsik's petrol-driven ruthlessness here for example in Böser Bärentanz and Goldies Wut. The populist dance element comes out in Goldlöckchens Tückischer Tanz. The mood-range and the sinister side are fully reflected; listen to the whispered eldritch Tapiola gale drawn from the strings in Ubelriechendes Melodram. Schwertsik returns to Viennese bombast as well as cheeriness from time to time. He is closer to Haydn and Mozart in the chittering and flute-lofted affability of the Beratungsmusik.

No problems with the recording which is detailed and gripping and the notes are thorough.

This disc arrived within twelve months of the ABC Classics' Schwertsik CD. The two complement each other strongly.

Schwertsik is a freewheeling eclectic with an inventive line in synthesising material. His music is smilingly fresh and evinces a need to reach out to the listener. He can be fascinating and mesmerising even when his intention is simply to entertain. Altogether very well worth hearing. I suspect that you will immediately want to replay that superb Violin Concerto.

Rob Barnett

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