Fritz BRUN (1878-1959)
Cello Concerto in D minor (1947) [28:04]
Verheissung (Johann Wolfgang von Goethe) for mixed choir, orchestra and organ (1915) [9:26]
Grenzen der Menschheit (Johann Wolfgang von Goethe) for male choir and orchestra (1932) [6:10]
Fünf Lieder für eine Altstimme (1913-1916) [10:26]
Claudius Herrmann (cello); Bernadett Fodor (mezzo); Bratislava Symphony Sextet; Peter Loydl (organ)
Bratislava Symphony Choir/Ondrej Šaray
Bratislava Symphony Orchestra/Adriano
rec. 18-27 August 2015, Studio 1, Slovak Radio, Bratislava, Slovakia
GUILD GMCD7420 [54:23]
Guild’s Fritz Brun series is approaching double figures. For now, admirers of the Swiss composer will have to rest content with volume nine which contains his 1947 Cello Concerto and three much earlier pieces for mixed forces. Once again Adriano steers the musicians with a practiced hand.
Some critics at the time termed the Concerto a lyric symphony with cello obbligato, a perceptive but not wholly plausible view. Of the symphonic architecture there could be little complaint given Brun’s stature as a symphonist. But in this work his soloist traverses the expressive land from assertive to reticent, sometimes more or less discursively, a journey Brun facilitates by allowing the cello’s full register to sound. There is plenty of rich material for the winds and plenty of lyrical writing for the cellist. There’s certainly a Brahmsian cast to much of the declamatory writing – not least in terms of rhythm, and orchestral density of sound - but Brun retains his own identity in the concentrated richness of the slow movement and the high-spirited finale where some pawky material alerts one to Brun’s dry humour – and where, again, hints of Brahms’ Double Concerto resurface. Claudius Herrmann is the excellent soloist.
Verheissung, for mixed choir, orchestra and organ was composed in 1915 and doubtless informed by the turbulent European war. It’s a rather imposing piece, chromatic and polyphonic, in five sections, with a sagacious gravity that turns dramatic, jubilant and affirmative. As there are no texts in the booklet – and assuming your recall of Goethe is not wholly secure – you’ll have to scout all the texts elsewhere, something of a bore. The more compact Grenzen der Menschheit (the text is again by Goethe) is a more obviously conventional piece composed in 1932. The original setting was for a cappella male choir but the voice-and-orchestra setting emphasises darker and more gloomy voicings.
The Five Songs for voice and piano is heard in a Brahmsian arrangement made by Adriano for voice and string sextet. The dense harmonies in the original are certainly well served by the weightier depth of string tone. Despite this there are some truly diaphanous moments even when the texts are at their most pessimistic, and Brun’s lighter side is accommodated too. Bernadett Fodor is a real mezzo and negotiates these elements admirably.
Adriano’s notes – in English and German – are extensive and heavy with pinpoint information.
Previous review: Rob Barnett