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Othmar SCHOECK (1886-1957)
Das Schloss Durande Op.53 -  Opera in Four Acts (1941)
Armand – Peter Anders (tenor)
Priorin – Ret Berglund (soprano)
Fraffin Morvaille – Marta Fuchs (soprano)
Renald – Willi Domgraf-Fassbaender (tenor)
Gabriele – Maria Cebotari (soprano)
Nicole – Josef Greindl (bass)
Wildhuter – Otto Husch (tenor)
Volksredner – Vasso Argyris (tenor)
Jäger – Benno Arnold, Leo Laschet, Fritz Marcks, Hans Wrana, Felix Schneider
Robert Heger
Recorded live in April, 1943
Besuch in Urach – from the cycle Das holde Bescheiden (1948) [17.11]
Hilde Schoeck (soprano)
Othmar Schoeck (piano)
Private recording, undated
JECKLIN JD 692-2 [75.38]


This is not a new release but in the light of the ongoing Jecklin-Chris Walton series devoted to Schoeck it is by no means unwise to draw attention to it. As Walton’s extensive notes point out the survival of a recording of a Schoeck operatic premiere is a unique event. This one was made in 1943 and was discovered by Walton in the Zurich Radio Archives, having probably migrated there from Strasbourg’s radio station. It is presented “as is.” There is about three-quarters of an hour of music interspersed with a frequently dramatic and stentorian studio announcer-actor’s scene setting. Conjecturally the music derives from both the first and second performances – in any case the run was short and it lasted four performances before being withdrawn. It’s believed that Goering, whose comments on the libretto are unrepeatable here, had something to do with it.

German Radio recordings were often of astonishing fidelity. As cities were razed to the ground the Blatterphone kept recording miles of tape of superb quality, large swathes of which have now been released. It would be nice to say that this broadcast reaches that level but it wouldn’t be true, though I should add in fairness that the sound is at all times very listenable indeed. Voices are distant though, the stage perspective veiling them and the orchestra doesn’t emerge with any great clarity. Of the splendid cast, a really top class one bristling with star names, it’s Peter Anders who cuts through most, though only when he’s down stage. We hear just enough of Maria Cebotari to recognise her superb operatic presence.

There are six tracks, of varying lengths, so that what was broadcast is something of a compression, a torso of the complete opera. Nevertheless we can hear, amidst the rather overblown and stock Romantic plot, some typically astute Schoeck touches. The ethos is broadly Wagnerian-Straussian, though there are plenty of moments of lied-like simplicity, folkloric intimacy when characters break into heartfelt song. There are also some ripe duets, some lusty hunting motifs, a fair amount of typically dank Germanic forestry, a trio, thinning of the orchestral textures to reveal a supportive piano part, Revolutionary bands, recollections of earlier material, and self immolation and death. One can imagine that a libretto that consciously calls upon “A Man of Blood and Fire” in 1943 could fairly be said to have called upon some emblematic National Socialist fantasies – and indeed the librettist was the unlikeable Nazi sympathiser Hermann Burte. It’s not so surprising that a Revolutionary opera that reveals an increasingly deranged murderer and ends with a cataclysmic explosion and immolation should be troubling – not that composer or librettist necessarily saw the connection at the time.

The opera is augmented by Schoeck’s privately recorded and very long song Besuch in Urach from the cycle Das holde Bescheiden, written in 1948. Schoeck proves a formidable accompanist and his wife Hilde a devoted interpreter and the recording stretched over several 78 sides. Such survivals are rare, and though we do fortunately have other material with Schoeck at the keyboard this is a most important find.

Jecklin’s booklet is a splendid thing with full libretti, in English and German, and Walton’s usual high standards of documentation.

Jonathan Woolf

see also Review by Rob Barnett



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