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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 Tänze Op. 26 (1880) [15.55]
Abschiedsklänge Op. 28 (1880) [7.33]
Anastasiya Sidelnikova (organ)
Moscow SO/Adriano
rec Aug 2002, Large Hall, Moscow State Conservatory and Mosfilm Studios DDD
STERLING CDS-1049-2 [53.27]


I tell you the problem with a disc like this. It encourages cloud-cuckoo optimists like yours truly to hope for recordings of the most esoteric of material. After all, how many of you had heard of Schulz-Beuthen before this? If Bo Hyttner and Adriano can rise to this sort of material then why not symphonies by Bungert, Cuclin, Knipper, Shaporin, Dzerzhinsky (piano concertos in his case), Chisholm or Gaze Cooper.

Schulz-Beuthen was Silesian, a composer who like Borodin was shaken down into the profession of chemist in Breslau. He became a pupil of Reinecke and Moscheles and studied with them alongside Grieg and Svendsen. Rejected by the Romantic traditionalists such as Draesecke he upped sticks to Switzerland and there associated with Mathilde Wesendonck, Wagner and Gottfried Keller (the novellist on whose book Delius based his opera ‘A Village Romeo and Juliet’). He produced prolifically including ten symphonies - eight complete and the last two of which are stubs. His Seventh King Lear is said to be one of his masterworks. There are ten oratorios and sled-loads of other music. He was of the same generation as Brahms, Bruch, Goetz, Draesecke and Rheinberger. After Switzerland became uncongenial for him he moved to Dresden.

The Fifth Symphony is a product of the composer’s post-Swiss Dresden years. It is short, in four movements and uses the Lutheran hymn Ein Feste Burg usually to be heard in the reticent organ part. The work evinces the grip of Beethoven and Schumann the former in obstreperous bragadoccio; the latter in an ambitiously onrushing romance. Other voices also intrude or are pre-echoed. Brucknerian exclamation jostles with serene Elgarian string writing and in the finale there is some uproarious brass writing that sounds as if it might have been influenced by the finale of Sibelius's Second Symphony - loud, unabashed and bullishly triumphant. Toteninsel was dedicated to Leipzig University. It is contemporaneous with Rachmaninov's own tone poem. It is a powerfully introspective work pretty close in atmosphere and sometimes seemingly in detail to the Rachmaninov work - it exerts a powerful atmospheric pull. The other two pieces are quite different. They are light or at least lighter music with much in common with the marches and dances of the Strausses, Gung'l and Komzak but relieved by infusions of Dvořák and Brahms in dance-inclined mood. The Abschieds-Klänge is in some ways Schulz-Beuthen's equivalent of the Elgar Serenade.

Just to note that the Abschieds-Klänge is for string orchestra. The Fifth Symphony is for organ and orchestra although the organ makes only the most discreet of contributions.

It says much for Sterling that not only have they tracked down a pristine condition print of the Böcklin picture ‘Toteninsel’ but their meticulous care has produced the best reproduction I have ever seen of that painting.

There is now only the need to extend thanks to the Muscovite orchestra (who do enthusiastic and sterling, if not always desperately refined, service to the music) and to the rare dedication and adventurous soul of Adriano. He deserves to be picked up by an orchestra such as the Albany, the Guildford or the Bournemouth and allowed his head in selecting repertoire.

Schulz-Beuthen's is an old and forgotten voice liberated from the music dictionaries. Not of the first rank but certainly he has something enjoyable to say.

Rob Barnett



Vol.1: Richard WETZ Symphony No. 3 Berlin SO/Erich Peter STERLING CDS 1041-2

Vol. 2: Norbert BURGMÜLLER Symphony No. 1 Hugo STAEHLE Symphony No. 1 Orchester der Staatstheater Kassel/Marc Piollet STERLING CDS-1046-2

Vol. 3: Paul BÜTTNER Symphony No. 4 (1917-19) Berlin Radio SO/ Gerhard Pflüger (symphony) STERLING CDS-1048-2


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