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Max DEUTSCH (1892-1982)
Der Schatz - A Film Symphony in five acts (1923) [74:04]
Staatsphilharmonie Rheinland-Pfalz/Frank Strobel
rec. 28-30 Aug 2002, Ludwigshafen, Philharmonie, DDD
CPO 999 925-2 [74:04]



Der Schatz (The Treasure), made in the 1920s, was Georg W Pabst's first assignment as a film director. The film is done in late-expressionist style. If you recall the sets for The Cabinet of Dr Caligari you will know what to expect. There is visual distortion of buildings and strange even sinister trompe l'oeil. Pabst intended the film to be a parable of the times. Germany was enmeshed in inflation run rampant. Fortunes were laid waste overnight. The plot has the hero Arno finding the treasure in the house of the bell-founder not through magic but through calculation. The film is of course a silent.

Pabst commissioned a full symphonic score from Deutsch. Astonishingly the score survived the depredations of the 1940s and when German government money permitted the  restoration of the film Frank Strobel was commissioned to revive the music as well. The as usual scholarly and occasionally abstruse notes from CPO make the point that the symphony is a concert work prepared by the composer and intended to be freestanding. The composer also wrote music intended to be played with the film. The two are not the same.

For all that Deutsch was a Schoenberg pupil the music here is resolutely tonal. This is another case of a composer adopting an accessible idiom departing from their accustomed 'concert voice'. Alwyn and especially Frankel followed a similar pattern. While Searle and even more so Lutyens were able to use their serial and dodecaphonic techniques for both the film world (usually horror) and the concert hall, these cases are very much the exception.

The symphony is in five movements. They are here termed Acts. The first is a Mässig bewegt in which visions seems to cartwheel and transform. The gamut is run, from grand waltzes to romantic moonlight, from sumptuous fantasy to grotesquerie, from strangely drifting anchorless woodwind to string ‘tendrils’ floating in anarchic disconnection. Much use is made of an orchestral piano. The effects are sometimes comparable with Korngold's manner in Robin Hood and The Sea Hawk - try the start of the second movement. Later the music becomes more doom-laden and heavy with creepy foreboding.

The upper strings of the orchestra are not the most opulent but the redemptive power of the double basses and cellos can be heard at the start of the fourth act. They play a grumbling and sharply accented figure - a sort of pre-echo of the John Williams 'Jaws' theme. The same figure, with its minatory rippling effect, reappears in the finale (tr. 5). It coasts very close to the foreboding-heavy orchestration of Bax's Second Symphony. This is again echoed by piano, woodwind and sighing violins in the glimmering romantic contentment at 2:20. Contentment won through adversity radiates from the final Delian pages.

Deutsch was born in Vienna. He was a pupil of Schoenberg and became the elder composer's assistant. He spent some time in Paris in the 1920s, In 1933-35 he worked in Madrid for the Spanish film industry. The war years were spent in service with the French Foreign Legion. With the war over he returned to Paris carrying the 12 tone message to new generations of music students. I hope that there will also be recordings of Deutsch’s other concert music.

The CPO booklet for this issue includes ten stills from the film. I do hope that there will soon be an opportunity to see this on terrestrial TV.

This is a case of an interesting and at times intriguingly inventive score which rises to some impressive imaginative coups. Overall though it does not linger in the mind but then neither does Koechlin's Seven Stars Symphony.

Rob Barnett


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