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Heinrich SCHULZ-BEUTHEN (1838-1915) 
Symphony No. 5 Reformationshymnus Op. 36 (1884) [18.18]
Die Toteninsel - symphonic poem (1909) [11.33]
Neger-Lieder und Tšnze Op. 26 (1880) [15.55]
Abschiedsklšnge Op. 28 (1880) [7.33]
Anastasiya Sidelnikova (organ)
Moscow Symphony Orchestra/Adriano
rec. AugUST 2002, Large Hall, Moscow State Conservatory and Mosfilm Studios
STERLING CDS1049-2 [53.27]

Heinrich Schulz-Beuthen was a pupil of Moscheles and Reinecke; his classmates included Grieg and Svendsen. In fact, to be clear, he was christened plain Heinrich Schulz but upgraded by incorporating the name of the town of his birth. Studying later with Liszt pupil Carl Riedel meant that Schulz-Beuthen would inevitably be tagged as a member of the New German School as opposed to the Romantic traditionalists.

Whether he wanted to honour Martin Luther’s 400th anniversary or the Reformation Symphony of Mendelssohn seems in some doubt but the fact remains that in 1881 he began a symphony that was to be completed in Dresden in 1884, called the Reformation Symphony. His Fifth symphony, it shared both its number and subtitle with Mendelssohn’s—more than usually symptomatic of an homage, one would have thought.

It’s a highly compact 18-minute work cast in four conventional movements. It opens with stirring festive–type brass, confidently if ultimately rather repetitiously deployed before the second section introduces Eine feste Burg ist unser Gott as a hymnal in three separate passages, the organ offering quietly contemplative commentaries which contrasts with noble peroration and more lyrical episodes. The March-like third section leads seamlessly to a kind of refraction of Eine feste Burg, now transformed into a quick stepping triumphant melody, ending with splendidly purposeful power.

The symphony leaves quite a strong impression but in some ways the more compact Die Toteninsel (The Isle of the Dead) is a more subtle and structurally better argued piece of work. Composed in 1909, thus well before Rachmaninov’s work of the same name, it seems to encode brief Parsifalian references, as well as much that is baleful and brooding and indeed even Tchaikovskian—there are brief, almost balletic episodes along the way. The deft instrumental exchanges are part and parcel of what is, in essence, a Lisztian tone poem of considerable effect.

It’s quite a contrast to the Neger-Lieder und Tšnze light-hearted and bluff dance movements with an awful lot of Mendelssohn going on. The Abschieds-Klšnge, or Sounds of Farewell is a genial suite for string orchestra dating to 1880 and all over well within eight minutes.

There are some excellent notes and the recording is on the bluff side, not unlike the quality of the dance music, but it’s wholeheartedly played and indeed packs a real punch.

Jonathan Woolf

Previous reviews: Rob Barnett ~ Ian Lace


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