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Robert RADECKE (1830-1911)
Overture to Shakespeare's King John, Op. 25 (1860) [10:32]
Symphony in F Major, Op. 50 (1877) [33:15]
Nachtstück (A Night Piece), Op. 55 (1890) [9:43]
Two Scherzi, Op. 52 (1888) [11:17]
Sinfonie Orchester Biel Solothurn/Kaspar Zehnder
rec. 16-19 June 2015, Calvinhaus Biel, Switzerland. DDD
CPO 777 995-2 [64:53]

The life of the evidently handsome Silesia-born Robert Radecke (see illustration in booklet) spanned the 19th and 20th centuries. His world is very much of the romantic late 19th century. He was appointed music director at the Royal Court Opera Berlin in 1863 but gravitated towards ecclesiastical music; not that this is apparent here.

His personal acquaintance with Schumann, Wagner, Liszt, Brahms and Richard Strauss is, in the case of the music on this CD, evidenced in a certain resemblance to Schumann and Brahms. His work-list extends to songs, chamber music, symphonies (three of them), overtures, hymns, choral works and organ music. The present disc is reported to be the first of two exploring Radecke and crowd-funded from Biel and through a direct grant by Christian Radecke, the composer’s great-grandson.

The King John concert overture is suavely dramatic taking in elements of the accelerando manner of Schumann with the calming aspects of Mendelssohn's Fair Melusine and the kinetic variety of Weber's Oberon. The four movement Symphony again touches on Schumann especially in the first and last movements; this time the Fourth Symphony. There's a downy Mendelssohnian chatter to the second movement while the third suggests the dreamy slow-motion of a thronged ballroom. The Nachtstück has an unhurried quality and is dark and tense before giving way to yearning romance. It's clear that Radecke was no slouch when it came to music with a rushing pulse and the two Scherzi play to this strength. In fact they teeter and sweep excitingly around the world of the early Tchaikovsky symphonies and of the vintage era Glazunov symphonies. The second Scherzo also sports some charming writing for woodwind.

Neither Sinfonie Orchester Biel Solothurn nor Kaspar Zehnder are familiar names - at least not to me. However they are more than equal to the task of advocating Radecke persuasively. Let's hope they will take on more Radecke and also be taken on by CPO to move into stormier territory - perhaps with Bruno Walter's Second Symphony; well past time to take up that inspired baton again. The readably detailed liner-notes are excellent and are in German, English and French.

This is not heaven-storming music but is eminently craftsmanlike and satisfying both at technical and emotional levels. It will appeal to listeners who already have an appetite for Mendelssohn and Schumann or further afield for the orchestral Benedict and Sullivan.

Rob Barnett



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