This is an inexpensive and handy pair of discs deriving from studio
projects by WDR and Köln musicians conducted by Peter Gülke.
The early Symphony
bristles with restless propulsion contrasted with
reflection. Schreker’s glossary at that stage extended to a
sense of the colossal and the anxious. It’s clear he also felt
pull towards lyrical release. You can hear this in the unhurried Andante
It’s all silkily and energetically handled. How revolutionary of
to end with a slow movement with such an undiluted peaceful demeanour.
Most of the remainder of CD 1 is given over to Das Weib des
. This is a 30-minute piece for speaker and orchestra and
one of Schreker's last works. It's a glowingly varied tapestry and is
affluent in lyrical detail. Gert Westphal's oration of the tale in German
(no translation provided) imbues every syllable with colour and nuance. The
tale he tells is typically tragic and dissolute. It goes back to Biblical
times: Darius the tyrant envies Intaphernes who has all the personal
qualities the tyrant lacks. He has Intaphernes and his family, except
Intaphernes’ wife, imprisoned. The wife's rescue attempt fails and
having cornered her Darius says that if she will give herself to him then he
will liberate one of the family. She instead sets the palace aflame and
kills everyone including herself, her family and the evil Darius. The music
boils with apocalyptic passion and tragedy. By the way, if you warm to that
sort of thing then do not on any account miss Vittorio Giannini’s
for soprano and Straussian orchestra. You will
not be disappointed. It can be heard on You-Tube
dates from a year after the symphony. It is
a smoothly mellifluous piece, warmed by the shades of Brahms' Requiem
and lit by the same sun that illumines the heights of Delius's A Mass of
. Much the same ramparts are glowingly patrolled by
which ends CD 2. No glare or dazzle here - just a
steadily sustained opalescence.
The second disc mixes orchestral dances with poetry and pieces for
voice and orchestra. The Festwalzer und Walzerintermezzo
appeal to those already conquered by the orchestral lollipops from
and Strauss's and Korngold's lighter dance confections.
There are perhaps some unconscious parallels with Frank Bridge's Dance
and Dance Rhapsody
although the Bridge items do, I think,
have psychological foundations absent from these two lushly romantic pieces.
The Fünf Gesänge
date from 1908 but the songs
were lambently and lucidly orchestrated in 1922. The words are by Edith
Ronsperger and are to Arabian Nights subjects. They place themselves in the
same broad territory as Ravel's Shéhérazade
and Ouverture féërie
and Szymanowski's Songs of the
. The sinister tolling of Die Dunkelheit
especially impressive in the way it sends a chill through the palm trees and
minarets. There are three brief poems by the composer. These are read with
obvious engagement again by Westphal. Schreker's tasteful orchestrations of
two songs from Wolf's Eichendorff Lieder
complete the picture.
The notes are no also-ran. They are by Malcolm Macdonald, an
open-minded force for good in music of the current and past century and
long-time editor of Tempo
- one of the greats of musical literature.
Would that my budget could stretch to the electronic version of Tempo
from its earliest issues. Pity about the absence of the sung and spoken
texts in original language and translation.
While we are on the subject, Schreker’s opera Irrelohe
was on Sony S2K66850 and merits reissuing. His impressive
(1916) for 23 players is well worth hearing as also
are his ballet Der Geburtstag der Infantin
and the operas: Der
(1912), Die Gezeichneten
(1918) and Der
To summarise: these discs encapsulate in smoke and flame Schreker's
late-romantic and expressionist proclivities across the genres of orchestra,
voice, melodrama and poetry.