Schoecks trio of concertos stand aside from the Swiss composers
devotion to the voice. On the other hand his concertos have strong vocal
qualities. They are melodious works written in an enjoyable late-romantic
though not overblown style.
The Violin Concerto has been recorded several times. Stefi Geyers
1940s 78s are now on a Jecklin CD, Ulrich Lehmans intense performance
was available on a Mace LP (1970s), Emmy Verheys MGB account has been
around since 1991 and Ulf Hoelscher recorded it for Novalis. I have heard
the Lehman, Verhey and now the Boller. However good the Geyer, performed
at the end of her career, it is a special case in historic mono sound.
It is dedicated to the violinist Stefi Geyer with whom Schoeck fell in obsessive
love although it seems that his love for her was never reciprocated. Before
she met Schoeck she had also been the dedicatee of Bartóks first
violin concerto. The concerto is songful and occasionally Brahmsian. It receives
an ardently committed performance from Bettina Boller who seemingly cherishes
the concertos long undulating lines. The work has a few fireworks but
it is predominantly a lyrical piece as might well have been expected from
a composer who devoted his musical life to the human voice. The violin is
in almost constant activity throughout the concerto.
Anyone who enjoys the Tchaikovsky violin concerto, the Brahms or the Bruch
is likely to enjoy this concerto and find themselves whistling its themes.
If you have already discovered even rarer though very rewarding concertos
by de Boeck, Karlowicz, Ivanovs, Miaskovsky, Glazunov, Leroy Robertson, Borresen
or Siegfried Wagner you are likely to enjoy this fine concerto. Who knows
- one day Hyperion may think it worthwhile to launch a romantic violin concerto
series as they have for the romantic piano concerto. If so the Schoeck will
certainly deserve a place in the lists.
Penthesilea (to words by Heinrich von Kleist) was written in 1924/5
between two of his most famous song cycles: Elegie and Lebendig
Begraben. It is the fifth of his eight operas and was premiered in Dresden
in 1927. It was revived in full in Luzern in 1973 conducted by Zdenek Macal
and recorded on LP in 1975 Harmonia Mundi/BASF 49 22485-6. I believe that
this may have been reissued on CD. In addition there is a performance with
the Austrian Radio Chorus and Symphony Orchestra / Gerd Albrecht on Orfeo
C364941B from 1982. I have not heard the Orfeo but it is reportedly a superior
performance to the old Harmonia Mundi.
The opera is about 80 minutes duration. It is written in a very different,
more jagged language than the violin concerto of only 10 years earlier. The
two leading characters are set for the darker voices of mezzo and baritone.
The orchestra leans on dark colours also: ten clarinets, two pianos, brass
and percussion are prominent lightened by parts for four solo violins. The
critic Hans Corrodi commented on its bronze sound. Schoeck did
not make a suite and Andreas Delfs has stepped in to create one adapting
Schoecks auburn and peppery orchestration to match the practicalities
of a more conventionally outfitted orchestra. The suite apparently preserves
the plot-line of the opera. Although it falls naturally into a series of
sections these are played without break. The work opens in screaming impressive
conflict - a mood to which it returns often. Bartók and Richard Strauss
seem to have been influences on the Schoeck of Penthesilea. There
are many pools of tranquillity (try 9:25) in this music when the romantic
Schoeck is in his element. Sometimes a Mahlerian sunrise is evoked as in
12:00. Much of this music is sumptuous and whets the appetite to hear the
whole opera. Warlike figures, conflict and aggression appear and reappear
evoked by percussion, high shrieking woodwind and clamorous brass. Some of
this takes us into Heldenleben territory. Ultimately the suite seems
rather fragmentary but many of those fragments agreeably tickle and stimulate
Let fears be stilled so far as the youth orchestra is concerned. They give
performances of secure intonation and utmost confidence. The sound gives
the impression of a large concert hall without being too cavernous. The
performance of the concerto is certainly the preferred one so far as I am
concerned although I have not yet heard the Novalis or the Jecklin. It will
not surprise me if the Schoeck concerto appears on Chandos before too long.
After all Claves, MGB and Novalis discs are not exactly common fare. Notes:
fine. Total play duration mildly disappointing. It would have been good if
another work could have been accommodated.
Repertoire attractive and excellent performances. A highly recommended disc.