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Franz SCHREKER (1878-1934)
Franz Schreker und Ausdruckstanz
Der Geburstag der Infantin [33:56]
Valse lente [7:03]
Festwalzer und Walzerintermezzo [7:05]
Der Wind [10:22]
Ein Tanzspiel [12:02]
Luzerner Sinfonieorchester/John Axelrod
rec. KKL Luzern, Konzertsaal, 21-24 June 2005. Stereo. DDD
NIMBUS NI5753 [71:02]
These short ballet works really brought out the best in Franz
Schreker. They demonstrate his natural ability to make music fit
stage action, with various narrative or pictorial allusions but
nothing so concrete that you feel the need of a synopsis. And
his orchestration is both masterly and imaginative; quieter textures
predominate, and the originality of his tone combinations in the
various small ensembles is continually fascinating.
Ausdruckstanz was a dance-form developed in the first decade
of the 20th century in Vienna, its rebellion against
ballet conventions making it a sort of choreographic equivalent
of Jugendstil. All the works presented here are associated
with the Wiesenthal sisters, pioneers of the form. But, as I say,
the value of the music transcends its origins; its focus on flowing
rhythm characterises it as music for dance, but its musical originality,
variety and craftsmanship dispel any notions of mere accompaniment.
Considering the radical times in which these works were written,
they must inevitably be considered conservative. Melody is the
motivating force, and without the philosophical baggage of his
weightier operatic projects, Schreker shows himself to be a master
of light Viennese melodic tradition. By comparison, the orchestration
is more daring: his prominent use of celesta in the opening of
the Valse Lente, for example, or his luscious pianissimo
textures in the Die Rose movement of Der Geburstag der
Infantin, which are only a short step from the expressionism
of early Schoenberg. Der Wind is scored for a group of
five players, but the imaginative use of each of the instruments
– the piano in particular – means that it approaches the timbral
variety of the preceding orchestral works. The final piece, Ein
Tanzspiel, is surprisingly based on baroque dance-forms. It
isn’t really ‘neo’ anything though, rather the composer turning
his craft to another utilitarian project for the stage and coming
up again with music that is distinctively Schreker.
Good performances from the Lucerne Symphony Orchestra and their
American conductor John Axelrod. The music needs space to ebb
and flow, and Axelrod is obviously confident enough in his players
to hold a watching brief without too many insistent downbeats.
For their part, the orchestra really get into the music’s fluid
style, their performance by turns lyrical and dramatic, and always
expertly coordinated. There are the occasional moments when other
conductors would be inclined to drive the music on to create headier
climaxes, but Axelrod’s priorities are more in colour and mood,
and he makes a compelling case for his interpretation.
This is apparently the first time that these works have been brought
together and recorded as a sequence. In one sense that is a shame;
this is music that really needs to be interpreted and I’d love
the chance to compare this reading with those of other performers.
But this is clearly a step in the right direction. It is a must-have
for Schreker fans and yet another striking demonstration of why
his neglect in the English-speaking world is so thoroughly unjustified.
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