Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

Music Webmaster
Len Mullenger:

Reviews from other months
OTHMAR SCHOECK (1886-1957) Elegie Op. 36 (1923) Song Cycle for Bass-Baritone and chamber orchestra Arthur Loosli (bass-baritone) Berner Kammerensemble/Theo Hug recorded 1967, DRS Studio, Bern JECKLIN DISCO JD 510-2 [56.52]


During the 1920s and 1930s this large-structure song cycle was one of Schoeck's most frequently performed works. So we are told in Chris Walton's typically lucid notes. The cycle was premiered by Felix Loeffel with an ensemble conducted by Schoeck on 19 March 1923 in Bern. Like many another romantic contemporary of Schoeck he wrote in his own style and resisted (perhaps felt no temptation towards) the atonalism of these years. He was a true late-romantic.

The cycle sets Lenau and Eichendorff and in doing so immediately occupies the heartland of the German- lied. There is no orchestral prelude. Schoeck cuts in immediately with Wehmut and the first thing you notice is the hiss associated with a recording now 32 years old. The emotional vista is dark but despite the (soon-effaced) hiss what impresses is the immediacy and feeling with which Loosli invests the words. Technically we should note the clarity of Loosli's enunciation and not forget the subtly coloured chamber textures on which the voice floats.

For Liebesfruhling Loosli adopts a resolute black tone which contrasts with the inwardness of Stille Sicherheit with its Warlockian curlew calls, haunt whisperings, wavelets lapping at the shore and splashing in the shallows.

Frage nicht is funereal and Warnung und Wunsch loud and stormy. Zweifelnder is lachrymose and Waldlied a vigorous Mahlerian gusty gale of life like the drunkard in spring. Waldgang is mournful as are so many of these Schoeck songs. An Den Wind seems to inhabit the wood dove-echoing wood; the best song so far. Kommen und Scheiden's opening sombre hymn for the strings gives way to Loosli's honeyed tones. All of which made me think of Tibbett and I began wondering if he ever sang in any Schoeck operas. Similarly sombre and intense is Herstentschluss (19).

Vesper and Verlorenes Gluck have more of the same sepulchral liquid: dunkel ist das leben indeed! Herbstklage is a serenade with a nice lullaby/folk tune feel. Herbstgefuhl I is darkly liquid and of wanderingly uncertain tonality. Slowly paced, its mood is very much of a piece with the rest of the cycle.

Nachklang chuckles and whispers quietly while the Bernard Herrmann haunted atmosphere of Das Mondlicht takes us back to the central mood of elegy similarly followed in Vergangenheit. Waldied is another nightmare ride à la Fuselli.

I will not comment on all the songs but note that common to most of them is a gentle ebb and flow, a wandering by the edge of a desolate lake and a sense of resignation: all flesh is grass, cowbells chime and Hassan's caravan passes into a lachrymose eternity.

The insert booklet contains all the texts in German only.

The quality of the recording cannot hope to compete with the 1998 CPO disc (see review). However the artistry in evidence from Loosli is deeply moving and marginally has the edge in interpretative terms over the CPO team.


Rob Barnett


Rob Barnett

See also previous reviews of Othmar Schoeck recordings Return to Index