Franz Schreker was
quite an influential teacher and musician
but somehow has been overlooked by musical
history in favour of Schoenberg and
his more famous pupils.
At first, due to the
success of his opera ‘Der ferne klang’
(1903-10) Schreker was offered a teaching
position at the Vienna Conservatoire
when his teacher Robert Fuchs retired.
After WW1 he moved to the more artistically
exciting Berlin and took his pupils
with him: Křenek,
Bürger, Karol Rathaus, Alois Hába plus
several others, such was their devotion.
All of them were experimentalists and
all thrived in the new environment.
This disc looks at
the early works of the three composers
and therefore is not entirely typical.
In a sense I am not quite sure who this
disc is aimed at, it might appear to
be of interest only to the student,
but as music each piece is worth exploring,
so let’s do just that.
The Intermezzo and
the Scherzo were originally intended
as concert companions but only later
separated and then re-orchestrated to
form part of the four movement ‘Romantic
Suite’ Op. 14. It’s good to have them
in their original form although divided
on this CD, on tracks 1 and 4, by the
songs. Schreker's pieces are indeed
Romantic and one is reminded of Richard
Strauss or Max Regerl sometimes even
Debussy. They are well crafted and excellent
examples of string music.
confess to coming to the music of Julius
Bűrger for the first time.
I have been very impressed by these
two songs. It is disappointing that
no texts are offered by Nimbus, neither
originals nor translations. The excellent
booklet notes by Christopher Hailey
do however give a brief résumé
of their content. They are religious
poems. The first is by Christian Morgenstern
and is about Christ on his way to Gethsemane.
The second is by Gottfried Keller which
is "a magical evocation of a summer
night. Burger’s setting is the work
of a master orchestrator." (Hailey’s
notes). The vocal line is focused and
expresses the text clearly. The music
may remind you of Zemlinsky, perhaps
the ‘Lyric Symphony’. Debussy is sometimes
at hand and there’s even a touch of
Berg. The sonorities are haunting and
somehow uniquely the composer’s own.
Incidentally if you Google him you will
discover many Julius Burgers, some rather
The Ernst Křenek
symphonies were all recorded on the
CPO label between 1994 and 1999 by the
Radio-Philharmonie Hannover des NDR
under Takao Ukigaya. Their First is
on CPO 999 359-2 and it makes an intriguing
comparison with the one under review
here. On first hearing this version
I did not enjoy the work particularly
and thought it weak and tedious. The
next day I listened again to Ukigaya’s
recording with the intention of hearing
just a little. As it turned out, I was
so gripped that I played it all. Why?
Perhaps I was in a more receptive mood.
I finally decided that it was all to
do with pacing. I’ll explain. I began
to realize that each of the nine sections
of the symphony - its structure is very
curious - was considerably tighter and
faster in the CPO version. Just on basic
timings the CPO version runs to 30:38.
This new one has a duration of 35:36
and checking each individual section
you find that Axelrod is always slower.
In the case of the third section ‘Larghetto’
he is slower by 50%. What does this
matter? In some ways I prefer the slow,
static quality of Axelrod’s three slower
movements. However the faster ones lack
drive and excitement and it’s that which
has a debilitating effect. The colossal
final fugue takes over a half a minute
more in Axelrod’s hands.
the contents of this disc seem unfocused
and the Křenek performance is disappointing.
The Schreker pieces are available elsewhere
and anyway are not top-drawer. Only
the two songs by Bűrger are of
real interest but the lack of texts
is a nuisance. The recording
is excellent with considerable presence
and power and all the detail clear.