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Hermann SUTER (1870-1926)
Symphony in D minor (1914)
First stereo recording and first CD recording
Hans JELMOLI (1877-1936)

Three Pieces for Orchestra from the Lyrical Comedy ‘His Legacy
World premiere recording
Moscow Symphony Orchestra/Adriano
Rec. Mosfilm Studios, Moscow, August 2002
STERLING CDS-1052-2 [61:15]

The name Adriano is synonymous with the championing of little known Late-Romantic music. Here the conductor introduces works by two Swiss late 19th/early 20th centuries composers. It has to be said immediately that they are hardly earth-shaking; but the Jelmoli has a certain charm.

Hermann Suter was born in Kaiserstuhl near Aarau, Switzerland. In Basel he studied piano and composition under Hans Huber and theory and organ under Alfred Glaus. Later he studied with Carl Reinecke in Leipzig. The music of Wagner and Richard Strauss were considerable influences. Under the direction of Suter, as principal conductor, the Basel orchestra was rapidly to become an excellent ensemble with an incredible repertoire of works from Bach to Schoenberg, including hitherto neglected composers such as Anton Bruckner, César Franck, Edward Elgar, Frederick Delius and Russian composers including Stravinsky.

Suter’s Symphony in D minor is scored for a large orchestra and is an imposing structure. Much of the material is based on Swiss folk music. Beginning menacingly, its first movement encompasses many moods, sometimes tender and soothing, sometimes fierce or grotesquely spectral. Often it sounds as though it is a score for a swashbuckler - is that Errol Flynn riding over the horizon? Alas too often it all sounds too pretentious like Richard Strauss on a bad day. At times this bombast teeters perilously on the edge of bathos, blame the over-emphatic, over-repetitive, poorly shaded brass writing. More wince-making are the brass raspberries that punctuate the second movement. This is ear-shatteringly loud and vacuously bombastic. It is marked Capriccio militaresco, alla marcia, the music, slightly reminiscent of Nielsen, is supposed to lampoon the Swiss petty bourgeois mentality of the time. The third movement, the Brahmsian Adagio molto, is the most interesting part of the symphony, deeply felt, intense and embracing simple folksong elements and material of a liturgical nature. The finale alas returns to the pompous and ponderous redeemed, to some extent, by nicer passages of pathos.

Hans Jelmoli was born in Zurich into the family of rich department store proprietors. Like Suter, Jelmoli used Swiss folk material in his compositions. His music for the lyrical comedy His Legacy is on a much smaller scale. Recorded here are three charming lightweight miniatures extracted by the composer for concert performances but never published. The Prélude is a four-part suite-overture with short introduction and coda featuring the comedy’s main tunes A witty march-like Allegretto grazioso leads into a lyrical string episode followed by a waltz and an extended dance combining tambourine and gallop. The second piece, with harp predominant, the Intermède lyrique, is reminiscent of Tchaikovsky’s ballet music. The third piece, Reigen, is charming folk material.

The Suter Symphony is bombastic melodrama, sometimes teetering on the edge of banality. Adriano gives it a powerful and enthusiastic reading but it is the sort of work to listen to once and then file under the heading ‘curiosities’. The smaller-scale Jelmoli music is charming.

Ian Lace

see also review by Rob Barnett


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