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Emil Niklaus von REZNICEK (1860-1945)
Tanz-Symphonie (Symphony No.5) (1926) [49:39]
Ballet Music from Donna Diana (1898) [4:20]
Waltz Music from Donna Diana (1898) [4:12]
Danube Philharmonic, Vienna/Manfred Mussauer
No recording details
ANTES EDITION BM-CD 31.9222 [58:07]


Reznicek’s Tanz-Symphonie was premiered in Vienna in 1926 under the baton of Weingartner. Five years later Erich Kleiber introduced it to New York. And in between Dresden hosted what the notes call a "staged version" – which I assume means ballet. The Dance Symphony – it’s actually his Fifth Symphony - is really an intensive four-movement fifty-minute suite and hardly a symphony at all, which would doubtless explain its resonance for the stage. It takes in a Polonaise, Czardas, a Ländler and finally a big Tarantella. The Czardas is a kind of emotive slow movement in symphonic terms and the Ländler takes the role of a Scherzo.

Reznicek was a friend of Richard Strauss and admired by Mahler; the two influences on him are, it has to be said, audible – though it would be wrong of me to overstress the Mahlerian influence, which is slight. Straussian string layering does launch the Polonaise where we find touches of the circus as well as considerable grandeur. The Czardas inspires more equivocal writing. The notes refer to it in ways that make it sound like a mini violin concerto – but it seems to me, in this performance at least, to possess a rather curdled introspection and a nagging unease that lifts it out of the ordinary. True, the solo violin is often to the fore and it does embrace more jaunty clarinet-led freedoms, but the Czardas proper really only emerges late, after about 9:00. It’s not an overt pastiche; it’s subtler than that.

The Ländler is an amusingly wry affair and the finale, the longest movement, certainly pulls out all the stops. The notes somewhat optimistically allege Ives, Janáček and Stravinsky alongside Strauss as points of reference. One can see that the helter skelter piling up of motifs and the brusque tarantella intercutting might suggest the former two but I think that’s a retrospective judgement and not reflected at all in the writing, which is here far more clement. The clarinet writing is distinctly Dvořákian and there’s a rather saucily academic fugal section as well, that doesn’t, let me add, suggest Reger.

Donna Diana was a much earlier work, dating from 1898 – an opera better known for its overture; the whole thing was apparently not restaged until 2003. The two excerpts include a rather gruff Spanish ballet tinged with Viennese suavity and a characteristic Waltz. Reznicek had dance music in his blood.

The performances are attractively committed without being especially distinguished. But for admirers of the lighter Reznicek some of those intimations in the Tanz-Symphonie might come as an intriguing opening out of experience.

Jonathan Woolf



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