Mark LOTHAR (1902-1985)
Schneider Wibbel — overture (1938) [7:36]
César FRANCK (1822-1890)
Le Chasseur maudit [14:32]
Riccardo ZANDONAI (1883-1944)
Serenata Medioevale for solo cello, French horns, strings and harp (1912) [11:45]
Donna Diana - overture (1894) [3:59]
Richard STRAUSS (1864-1949)
Symphonia Domestica Op.53 (1898) [39:44]
Berlin State Orchestra/Carl Schuricht
Enzo Martinenghi (cello)
Orchestra of La Scala Milan/Carl Schuricht
rec.1941, Milan, except 1942, Berlin (Lothar, Franck).
Toward the end of the Second World War a number of leading German musicians were, in the parlance of the time, ‘tipped off’ that they were about to be arrested. One thinks of Kulenkampff, for example, the leading resident German violinist. Then there was Carl Schuricht who, like the fiddle player, escaped to Switzerland. Before such action became a necessity he had left a series of wartime inscriptions, and some are presented here. The Italian series was made in Milan in 1941 and the Berlin sides followed a year later.
These latter discs were made for Grammophon. Mark Lothar (1902-45) was then forty and his recent Schneider Wibbel, composed in 1938 to be precise, offers a compendium of chic and amusing gestures, none at all threatening, in music devoid of modernist hues. There are hints perhaps of Richard Strauss in a piece brimming with sentiment, and a truly lovely central lyrical section which is the heart of the overture. It’s heard in an excellent post-war pressing, with plenty of detail. Franck’s Le Chasseur maudit is a wartime pressing and not quite so well detailed. Nevertheless Schuricht takes good tempi, and transitions are well managed. Tension is maintained, the brass demonstrates fortitude, and the strings are characteristically well drilled, if one can put it thus of wartime Berlin. It’s not a helter-skelter performance by any means. For increased adrenalin levels you need performances by such as Beecham and Munch.
The Italian sequence begins with Riccardo Zandonai’s Serenata Medioevale which was written in 1912 for solo cello, horns, harp and strings. It’s highly evocative and sensitively contoured, charming in its innocence and scene setting. The solo cellist is Enzo Martinenghi, principal of the orchestra of La Scala, Milan. He plays with considerable lyricism but his sound is rather nasal and he is set backwardly in the balance. Rezniček’s overture to Donna Diana was the ‘filler’ to the Serenata; four minutes of genial and engaging fun. But Schuricht’s major undertaking, as represented in this disc, was his Milan recording of Richard Strauss’s Symphonia Domestica, a work you’d have thought he’d have made back in Berlin. Recorded on five 78s this is a cogent, well played and in many ways penetrating reading of a score that sometimes receives a less than perspicacious run-through. The recording quality is significantly better than the Zandonai — it was recorded slightly later in the year —and shows Schuricht responding in a level-headed way. Of contemporaneous recordings, the live wartime Strauss-conducted performance is on Preiser. The post-war Krauss in Vienna was excellent, Karajan and Reiner even better. But Ormandy’s Philadelphia 78 set, on five discs too, was a real blockbuster and considerably more heated than Schuricht’s.
Notwithstanding such interpretative niceties, these unusual Berlin and Milan recordings fit quite well together and have been splendidly transferred by Mark Obert-Thorn.
Jonathan Woolf
These unusual Berlin and Milan recordings fit quite well together and have been splendidly transferred.

Masterwork Index: Symphonia Domestica