Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

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OTHMAR SCHOECK (1886-1957) Prelude Op 48 (1932) Horn Concerto Op 65 (1951) Serenade for oboe, cor anglais and strings Op 27 (1930) Suite for Strings (1946) Bruno Schneider (horn) Silvia Zabarella (oboe) Martin Zurcher (English Horn) Musikkollegium Winterthur/Werner Andreas Albert  CPO 999 337-2 [64'13"]



This collection conveniently groups the Concerto and Suite (works previously recorded) with the only recordings of the Prelude and the Serenade.

Schoeck is overwhelmingly a lieder composer with eight operas to his name (four of them on CD). The orchestral and chamber music is becoming better known - at least on disc. There are four CDs of the violin concerto. The two violin sonatas and string quartets are also available.

My introduction to Schoeck came with a BBC Radio 3 talk by Robert Layton and the Genesis LP of Raff's piano concerto which had the Schoeck Sommernacht for strings as a coupling. Sommernacht is an idyllically warm poem for string orchestra.

CPO are to be congratulated on using an orchestra Schoeck often conducted, and Albert (a champion of Korngold, Pfitzner, Hindemith and Frankel) displays great feeling and sympathy for the music as do his soloists.

The Prelude might as well be entitled 'Tragic Prelude'. There is a dense grandeur about it. The power and sombre atmosphere suggest the first movement of an earnest symphony. A commissioned work, Schoeck referred to it as an 'austere lullaby'. Austere ... yes but what baby would fall asleep to such an overcast lullaby?

The Horn Concerto is a late work, again written to a commission, this time from an amateur horn player Willi Aebi. Schoeck writes with the grain of the instrument. His models are Mozart with an heroic dash of Richard Strauss (first horn concerto and Don Juan). The work has been recorded before on a Mace LP and on an MGB CD. Dennis Brain played the work and his radio tape has been issued on Jecklin. CPO offer a very fine performance with virtuosity and melodious woodland romance aplenty. The first movement makes vigorous use of a sharply patterned figure. Schoeck's gift for melody makes the central movement a virtual song for horn and orchestra. The jollity of the testing final movement is well caught in a lightning and quicksilver performance by Bruno Schneider. Schneider previously recorded the work for MGB in a version conducted by Thierry Fischer. The concerto is still comparatively little known: an undeserved fate. Any young soloist wanting to make a coup in the BBC Young Musician of the Year contest would be well-advised to look out the score of this concerto instead of reaching for Mozart.

The Serenade acted as a replacement for the second act in a performance of Schoeck's opera Don Ranudo. This is a complete contrast with Schoeck's usual darkly or romantically painted music. A child of Ravel's Bolero and with strong elements of Spanish atmosphere it is a very attractive example to put alongside Chabrier's Espana, Berners' Caprice Peruvien, Ravel's Rhapsodie Espagnole and Bax's Mediterranean. It now joins Klami's Sea Pictures as one of those works which took Ravel's Bolero as its point of departure ... and arrival.

Putting Schoeck anywhere near a string orchestra produced romantic music. In the five movement suite written at the same time as Sommernacht (the influence of which can be heard in the suite) the mood is also elegiac although occasionally, as in the first movement, there is a certain thickness and academicism. The suite is not as immediately winning as the serenade or concerto but repeated listenings reveal a rich and distinctly Elgarian work.

The straightforward richly informative notes are by Schoeck expert Chris Walton. Has his study of the Swiss composer been translated into English yet? Thanks to CPO for this rewarding issue which mixes the immediately approachable with the longer term delights of the suite and prelude. With his operas Massimila Doni, Schloss Durande, Penthesilea and Venus all on CD I hope that CPO will be alert to record any accomplished concert revivals of his other operas.

This disc adds enjoyably and valuably to Schoeck's expanding discography and is recommended warmly.


Rob Barnett


Rob Barnett

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