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Recordings of the Month


piano music Vol 4


Songs of Love and Sorrow

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Paul BURKHARD (1911-1977)
Sieben Stufen des Lebens, begleitet von einer Nachtigall, der Bringerin eines sanften Todes (1976) [24:14]
Emmy Hürlimann (harp); Manfred Preis (clarinet); Martin Suter (organl); Paul Burkhard (conductor)
Hans SCHAEUBLE (1906-1988)
Die Rose und der Schatten, op.43, Ballett, Fassung für 2 Klaviere (1957-58) [49:09]
Nico Kaufmann (piano) and Hans Schaeuble (piano)
rec. 2-3 June 1977 (Burkhard) and 19 December 1959 (Schaeuble)
GUILD GHCD2357 [73:35]

Experience Classicsonline

Paul Burkhard was born in Zurich in 1911. His composition teacher was Volkmar Andreae but he studied widely in his capacity as a pianist, and even took up the cello. He was a noted conductor and from 1938 was active in his native city as a theatre conductor, later becoming – at Hermann Scherchen’s instigation – second conductor of the Studio Orchestra at Beromünster Radio. A composer as well as a conductor and executant, he wrote in a variety of forms. Perhaps his most celebrated work was Zäller Wiehnacht (Christmas at Zell) written in 1960. One of his last works was written in 1976, the year before his death, and was a birth-to-death reminiscence in seven acts, called Sieben Stufen des Lebens, begleitet von einer Nachtigall, der Bringerin eines sanften Todes. Its English title is ‘Seven steps of life, accompanied by a nightingale, the bringer of a gentle death’.

It’s written for harp, clarinet, and organ and directed by the composer himself in this broadcast performance made three months before Burkhard’s death in September 1977. It’s invariably a colouristic and allusive chamber piece. The harp’s dreamlike runs and the nightingale’s clarinet calls are pervasive features, introduced benignly in the birth of the Infant – each estate of man is represented by a different movement. Perkier writing announces the Boy, edging towards jaunty, the organ moving from supportively chordal to appropriately upbeat melodically. The harp’s arpeggios and the clarinet’s musing are invariably more self-contained in Adolescence. Young adulthood is represented by a pawky organ fanfare and a deal of self-confidence By now we reach Senior aetas and the music becomes more emollient, more equable, with writing that might not, at moments, be out of place in, say, Smetana. Musing soliloquies dominate Old Age before the inevitable slow winding down of all things. The music is clearly deeply personal, but offers playfulness and sympathetic vitality into the bargain in a non-denominational, post-impressionist sort of way. The recording is very good but there’s tape print through in places which causes ghostly pre-echo

Burkhard’s Swiss contemporary Hans Schaeuble studied in Leipzig with a Reger pupil. He too was a more than competent pianist. He then moved to Berlin where he lived between 1931 and 1942, though he returned to his homeland from 1939-41. Carl Schuricht conducted his Symphonic Music for Large Orchestra with the Berlin Philharmonic in March 1939, and this apparently made an impression but his German stay caused resentment back home and he had trouble getting his works performed. His ballet Die Rose und der Schatten was finished in 1958, and was his last stage work, one he revised in 1977 and again in 1979. It was recorded in 1959, the composer at the piano with Nico Kaufmann, though I’m not sure whether it was commercial or broadcast. Certainly it’s rather boxy and somewhat splintery too, and I’d guess it’s a private affair. It’s not easy to reclothe the piano reduced version we hear, but it’s clear that there are Stravinskian elements at work, as well as, perhaps, hints of Frank Martin. I hear some Spanish rhythms in the First Act Ensemble [track 14] as well as some droll dance rhythms. There’s some nice lyric material in the second of the Act II solos [track 16].

The booklet is in German and in English and sports an especially nice photograph of Burkhard, Schaeuble and Kaufmann in dinner jackets enjoying themselves. As for a ready market for the disc, this is not for the generalist, but for the most particular of Swiss specialists – it’s an Archive Special.

Jonathan Woolf


















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