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Philipp Ludwig SCHARWENKA (1847-1917)
Wald- und Berggeister op. 37 [8:40]
Dramatische Phantasie op. 108 (1901) [38:14]
Zwei Polnische Volkstänze op. 20 [10:00]
Philharmonisches Orchester Altenburg-Gera/Eric Solén
rec. 18-21 February 2008, Konzertsaal der Bühnen der Stadt Gera, Germany. DD
STERLING CDS1079-2 [56:59]

This disc joins Sterling’s other Philipp Scharwenka orchestral volume (CDS1071-2).

It’s another enterprising entry in this Swedish company’s tirelessly executed mission to populate their German Romantics stable with the deserving yet unrecorded.

Be warned, this is not the piano concerto Scharwenka. That’s Xaver. Philipp was Xaver’s elder brother. He was born near Poznan - a Prussian in Poland. He made his first public éclat in 1871 when an overture and a symphony of his featured in a concert. The Scharwenka brothers established music schools in Berlin and New York. Philipp numbered Oskar Fried among his pupils. Sadly much of Philipp’s music was destroyed during the Second World War.

The cheerful Wald- und Berg Geister crosses backwards and forwards between Dvorak (7 and 8) and Beethoven's Pastoral. The three movement Dramatic Phantasie is a work of symphonic proportions and spirit. Moods move naturally and mercurially, being suggestive momentarily of Schumann, Tchaikovsky and Brahms. This works despite my ham-fisted attempt at description. There's a silvery romantic quasi-Tchaikovskian Andante in there incorporating a clarinet solo (Hendrick Schnöke) with harp. While it's evident that this fine and quiet web-spinning strains the Altenburg-Gera orchestra they put the message across most winningly. A restless and bustlingly sanguine Allegro sprints off but finds time for shivers and serenades. To round out a not especially generous timing we get two Polish dances. The Polonaise is dignified with a faint Hungarian flavour while the Mazurka flounces along with a combination of natural stiff-necked seriousness, pointed energy and romantic asides. The dances are pleasant enough but the real centrepiece is the Dramatische Phantasie which is a symphony in poetic spontaneity.

If you enjoy Schumann, and Dvorak you will appreciate these pleasing pieces and the Phantasie is more than just pleasing.

I was very pleased to see that the disc carried an insert from the Xaver and Philipp Scharwenka Society. Have a look at their website. The Society have established the Scharwenka Foundation in Bad Saarow in Brandenburg with a view to restoration of Xaver´s composing home. He lived there from 1910 to 1924.

Lübeck-based Evelinde Trenkner has made some ten CDs for MDG. She is the moving force behind the Society and Foundation and has often performed Philipp’s Violin Sonata op. 110 with various violinists. Xaver’s Symphony finds its only home so far on Sterling as do his piano concertos and chamber music on Hyperion.

If you would like to delve further - as well you might after hearing this CD - look at a brace of very interesting chamber music CDs from MDG of Philipp’s Trios and cello sonata with Trio Parnassus and the String quartets and Piano Quintet with the Mannheimer String Quartet and Thomas Duis.

Rob Barnett



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