Mark Obert-Thorn, the producer of this CD, describes the La
Scala items as “particularly rare”, and I’m
sure this is so. Not so rare, though, that I haven’t already
reviewed a transfer of the Domestic Symphony on Urania (RM 11.905).
Obert-Thorn apologises for the level of surface noise remaining
“on the lower-grade wartime shellac”. As is his
wont, he has concentrated on retaining a good body of sound
even at the cost of some residual swish. The Urania transfer,
on the other hand, has surfaces almost as silent as a modern
CD. Before you run for cover, I must say that Urania’s
no-noise process, or whatever it is, has not dried the sound
out so completely as it sometimes does. What remains is quite
warm and pleasant. However, the removal of the surface noise
seems to have removed also the sense of an acoustic, the sound
seems almost disembodied. So I would prefer the Pristine transfer,
but maybe not to the extent that I would let it sway me if I
preferred the Urania coupling of a richly lyrical Brahms 2 from
1953. Either way, Schuricht is a warm-hearted, flexible and
highly musical interpreter of the Domestic Symphony, reducing
the bombast as far as possible in what is, after all, one of
the composer’s less palatable creations.
The remainder of the Pristine disc is a fascinating mix of the
well-known and the virtually forgotten.
Mark Lothar was a new name for me. He was born in Berlin in
1902 and studied there under Franz Schreker and under Ermanno
Wolf-Ferrari in Munich. He quickly became known as an accompanist,
a role he continued after the war, working with Hermann Prey
among others. His first big success was a light-hearted opera
“Tyll” (1928), followed by “Munchausen”
(1933), “Schneider Wibbel” (1938), “Rappelkopf”
(1959) and “Momo und die Zeitdiebe” (1978). By 1933,
too, he was a member of the Nationalist, anti-Semite “Kampfbund
für deutsche Kultur” and he was Musical Director
of the Prussian State Theatre in Berlin from 1934 to 1944. Several
of his commissions came directly from Goebbels, who awarded
him the “Reichstelle für Musikbfarbeitungen”.
In August 1944 Hitler himself mentioned him favourably in his
“Gottbegnadeten-Liste”. He did not founder with
the regime that had brought him success. In 1945 he began to
work with the Bavarian State Theatre and he was a freelance
composer in Munich from 1955. His “Musik des Einsamen”,
a setting of poems by Hermann Hesse, was recorded by Dietrich
Fischer-Dieskau for EMI. He was a prolific film-composer and
the Internet Movie Database lists 29 scores, all for German
films, from 1921 through to 1967. He died in Munich in 1985.
Such a career raises a host of questions that readers can ask
- and answer from their various points of view - just as well
as I can. So I’ll only make two points that mightn’t
occur to you. Firstly, all the above information is found on
the Internet only in the German Wikipedia - a sometimes comprehensible
automatic translation into English is available. No site I found
in English refers to the darker areas of his career. His curriculum
at his publisher’s site leaps from the 1920s to the 1950s.
Secondly, and you can consider this irrelevant if you wish,
between gathering this information and settling down to write
the review, I watched the TV News. One item described the visit
of the Italian football team to Poland, where they are to play
tonight. In the morning they visited Auschwitz, and some of
them wept at what they saw.
Lothar’s overture to “Schneider Wibbel”, written,
remember, on the threshold of war in 1938, is a merry, tuneful,
occasionally sinister and sometimes lyrical piece. Stylistically,
it might be a potpourri from a Korngold film score. Nice light
listening. After a while I longed for a Kurt Weill cabaret song
to come and cock a snook at it.
Schuricht, too, was a German artist who stayed on. However,
he did make some sort of a stand, conducting Mahler for as long
as they’d let him and getting heckled from the public
when he came onto the platform to conduct “Das Lied von
der Erde” in occupied Amsterdam: “Deutschland über
alles, Herr Schuricht!”. In 1944 he fled to Switzerland,
following a tip-off that he was about to be arrested. He gives
a vividly characterized performance of Lothar’s overture.
In the Franck, he inspires considerable tension from the orchestra.
His flexibility and his alignment of the music with Franck’s
restless spirituality rather than with Liszt’s “Les
Préludes” makes the score seem less vulgar than
it often does. Be warned that the first horn is a rather shaky
The title of Zandonai’s “Medieval Serenade”
makes sense as an evocation of the succulent, decadent, Pre-Raphaelite
pseudo-medieval world the composer later explored in the opera
“Francesca da Rimini”. The Serenade came five years
before the opera and was written in 1909. The outer sections
are luscious, the central part - the serenade proper - slightly
more conventional. Not a bad find for a short cello piece. Schuricht
draws the right tinsel from the orchestra and gets a lively
rendering of Reznicek’s agreeable little overture.
I’m not quite sure what sort of a recommendation this
adds up to, and for whom, but it certainly shows that Schuricht
was more than just a German conductor of German classics.
Incidentally, I see that in my review of the Urania disc I was
for some reason under the impression that the Strauss was recorded
in 1949, shortly after the composer’s death. I apologise
for this error and cannot understand why I made it since the
Urania accompanying material, like that of Pristine, clearly
dates the recording to 1941.
See also review by Jonathan
Masterwork Index: Symphonia