Erwin SCHULHOFF (1894-1942)
Double Concerto for Flute, Piano and String Orchestra with Two French Horns Op. 63 WV 89 [19:57]
Viktor ULLMANN (1898-1944)
String Quartet No. 3, Op. 46 (arr. K. Woods as Chamber Symphony, Op. 46a for string orchestra) [13:20]
Sonata for Flute and Piano Op. 61 WV 86 [13:39]
Vilem TAUSKÝ (1910-2004)
Coventry - Meditation for String Orchestra.[8:14]
Three Pieces for String Orchestra WV 5 [9:39]
Ulrike Anton (flute); Russell Ryan (piano)
English Chamber Orchestra/David Parry
rec. 19-21 March 2012, Parish Church, St Jude-on-the-Hill, Hampstead, London. DDD
GRAMOLA 98964 [65:25]
While there were earlier Schulhoff CDs from Supraphon, the most systematic and prestigious celebration of the music condemned by the Nazis as ‘degenerate’ was Decca’s Entartetemusik series. Surely that is a series that merits reissue and preferably in a single box to match Universal’s The Decca Sound and the two Mercury Living Sound volumes. Other labels, including Albany and EMI, have launched out into these waters but along comes the Exil.Arte Gramola series of which this is the fourth disc. The earlier volumes are Hans Gál: 98896, Walter Arlen: 98946/47 and an anthology Klavierduo recital: 98892.
Schulhoff’s Double Concerto has a pounding neo-classical resonance that reminds me of Martinů’s Concerto for Two String Orchestras, Piano and Timpani. The Andante alternates agreeably cool and something close to chilly. The finale flitters along like a butterfly with an outboard if you will forgive the mix of media. This is a merry piece and happily executed by soloists and orchestra in a warmly bathed acoustic.
Ullmann like Schulhoff met his death in the concentration camps. We hear his athletic and clean limbed yet far from unemotional String Quartet No. 3 uprated to full orchestral garb by Kenneth Woods who has done so much through Avie for the music of Hans Gál. He has achieved what feels like a most sensitive job. The music at times sounds like Bernard Herrmann - but it’s the other way around. Herrmann too essayed music for massed strings and in much the same bleakly mournful and eerie style: you can hear this in Fahrenheit 451, Psycho and The Nightdigger as well as his concert work, the 1935 Sinfonietta for Strings: There is also something here that feels Scandinavian as in the dancing elements of the Wirén Serenade and in Nystroem’s two concertos for string orchestra. The outer movements also feel similar to the string writing of Miklos Rozsa in his Hollywood film noir scores of the 12940s and early 1950s. I doubt if Ullmann was present to hear Bliss’s Music for Strings when it was premiered in 1935 in Salzburg but the last movement also has its parallels with that work.
Breaking away from the orchestral medium we hear the delicately balletic Flute Sonata by Schulhoff. Delightful and witty - this music almost touches hands with Poulenc. It still feels like an interloper in this orchestral company despite its intrinsic excellence.
Vilem Tauský took refuge from 1930s Germany in England and wrote his touchingly haunting Coventry - Meditation for String Orchestra in 1941 - initially for string quartet. It’s a sustained elegiac piece that in its breathily unexaggerated sincerity would match well in a concert programme with Howells’ Elegy.
Schulhoff’s Three Pieces for String Orchestra in turn are most endearingly modelled on Grieg’s string music and then a Straussian (Richard) piece of neo-classicism in the Menuet and a chirpy Pipa Tanzt which keeps casting admiring eyes towards Grieg again. These are lovely pieces.
The playing and recording are admirable and the full liner notes - 11 pages in English - are a substantial and helpful complement.
Happy music but never inane and clouds do scud across the horizon.
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