If you didn't already
know, Othmar Schoeck was an exponent
of high and late romanticism. He wrote
many lieder often of a gloomy nature.
He had no time for the anarchic, the
zany or the light-hearted. For him there
was always tragedy around the corner
even in moments of delight.
That there should be
three violin sonatas and a violin concerto
comes as no surprise. The violin is
after all one of the classic singers
of the orchestra. And sing is what it
does through these pages.
In the 1905 work the
Ruhig has classical moments which
keep finding Schoeck's romantic North.
They feel the magnetic pull ... the
tension towards a new and knowing world
of expression. Ironically it is the
classical world that triumphs in the
chiff-chaff finale. It recalls at first
the sort of lively Piggesnie
writing of Peter Warlock but then reminds
us of Beethoven's Spring Sonata,
the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto and
even Mozart's K364 Sinfonia Concertante.
Only in the first movement is the moonstruck
romantic world of the Stefi Geyer-inspired
concerto evoked. The mood and style
of the piece is inconsistent. It is
as if the last two movements had been
sitting in a drawer only to be completed
by a first movement that finds Schoeck
in full mature voice. Speaking of which
that is exactly what we find in the
Op. 46 sonata where the violin becomes
the gracious singer of the composer's
soul. This contrasts with the sinister
capering of the scherzo which even when
it goes into trio mode seems to look
over its shoulder into a landscape charged
with foreboding. The final movement
despite its marking Breit in
fact leads us with a skeletal hand further
into despond; at the last casting enamoured
glances towards the first movement.
The Op. 16 sonata is his earliest work
not to be disowned by the composer.
Its singingly poignant Mendelssohnian
soul is touched with a dancing Tchaikovskian
sensibility. The marks of the 1952 revision
can be felt in the Schnelle viertel
For a change there
is almost identical competition for
this disc from a Guild recording made
in 1997 by Paul Barritt and Catherine
Edwards. That duo have championed the
sonatas of Stanford, Ireland and Howells
on Hyperion. Zgraggen and Koella are
recorded more closely. In the more subtle
world of the gorgeously melodic Op.
46 sonata the sound does not quite match
the subtlety and distance of the Guild.
There's not much in it and both duos
produce highly poetic readings. Barritt's
tone is more hoarse, has more gravel
in the throat, than Zgraggen. Barritt
injects more vibrato and overt emotionalism
in his reading of the Kreislerian Albumblatt
from 1908. The piece was written
in the first dazzle of Schoeck's love
for the young violinist Stefi Geyer
who very shortly was to marry a Viennese
lawyer. Zgraggen takes a more tender
and innocent line than Barritt. Give
or take a handful of seconds there's
otherwise little to choose between these
Schoeck doyen Chris
Walton provides the notes for Guild
and Dominik Sackman for the Claves disc.
see also review
by Jonathan Woolf