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Emil Nikolaus von REZNICEK (1860-1945)
Symphony No. 1 Tragic (1903) [55:06]
Vier Buß- und Betgesänge nach Worten der Heiligen Schrift (Four Songs of Prayer and Repentance after Words of Holy Scripture) (1918) [11:44]
Marina Prudenskaja (mezzo)
Brandenburgisches Staatsorchester Frankfurt/Frank Beermann
rec. Konzerthalle Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, Frankfurt/Oder, 22-26 May 2006. DDD
CPO 777 223-2 [68:50]
Experience Classicsonline

CPO's first CD to introduce us to the symphonies of the composer of the Donna Diana overture was 777 056-2 which included symphonies 2 and 5.
With the present disc we make the acquaintance of the 55 minute leviathan that is Reznicek's Tragic Symphony. This was premiered in Berlin under the baton of Felix Weingartner on 2 January 1903. It’s a symphony of spectacle rather than an ineluctably coherent organic document. The spectacle is grand but it proceeds as a series of tableaux - a cavalcade of splendid incidents in which various elements merge. The writing sometimes references Bruckner, Tchaikovsky, Elgar and Berlioz (as in the ‘bacchanale’ of IV, at 5.54 onwards). There are a few echoes of Strauss - though never as torridly superheated as the original. If anything this is the Strauss of the Alpine Symphony. The Symphony has its grand moments but this is essentially an indulgent discursive piece with some fantastic episodes along the way.
By contrast the Four Songs of Prayer and Repentance after words of the Holy Scripture are more focused and compelling. Together the four songs run just short of 12 minutes. The mezzo Marina Prudenskaja renders them with as much soulful feeling as if they were Brahms' Vier Ernste Gesange - indeed these songs belong in that select company. Outstanding among the four is the third song Alles, was aus der Erde stammt with its poignant feelings driven graciously home.
As I mentioned in my review of that first symphony disc, Reznicek was more at home in the theatre. His most significant opera is Donna Diana, premiered in Prague in 1894. Do not overlook Till Eulenspiegel premiered in Carlsruhe in 1902, Ritter Blaubart in Darmstadt in 1920, Holofernes in Berlin in 1923 and Spiel Oder Ernst in Dresden in 1930.
As usual, the CPO notes are very extensive, intellectually convoluted and fascinating if sometimes difficult to follow in the English translation.
These performances carry great conviction with Frank Beermann having rapidly become the Reznicek champion alongside his efforts. We should not however forget that CPO have issued his recordings of the two symphonies by Heinrich von Herzogenberg (777 122-2) and the three symphonies of Friedrich Ernst Fesca (symphony 1: 999889-2; and symphonies 2 and 3: 999 869-2).
Rob Barnett


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