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Today, we listened to the “Romantic Suite and Prelude to ‘Memnon'”
by Franz Schreker (1878-1934), performed by the NOe Tonkünstler
Orchestra, under the direction of Uwe Mund. This 1988 recording was
re-released by Naxos in 2002. There has since been another 2009
re-release under the Marco Polo label, and these both of these
re-released recordings are currently available as an MP3 downloads.

The “Memnon Prelude” is possibly the only surviving music from
Schreker’s opera of the same name. It essentially stands alone as
a full-blown, 22-minute tone poem, and is difficult to imagine as
an opera overture. Written during 1933, it must have been one
of Schreker’s last works. The intended opera was to be set in ancient
Egypt. This “Prelude” is exotic and enjoyable, with parts that are
reminiscent of works by Maurice Ravel (1875-1937) and Ottorino
Respighi (1879-1936).

The “Romantic Suite” dates from 1902, and is in four movements.
It is also well written, demonstrating Schreker’s mastery of
orchestral composition. Both of these pieces predate some of
the large film scores used during the 1930’s and 1940’s, and may
have inspired them. Sadly, due in part to the rise of the Third
Reich, many of Schreker’s works did not initially receive the reception
they deserved. In fact, the third movement of the “Romantic
Suite,” an “Intermezzo,” was the only one published at the time
this recording was made. However, there are currently several
available performances of Schreker’s compositions, thereby
indicating that this lack of attention may have since been rectified.
In fact, we recently discussed a performance of one of his operas,
“Flammen.” 

Franz Schreker’s music is often composed in a lush, post-Wagnerian
idiom, and his use of the musical elements has a potentially
powerful effect upon the listener. Unfortunately, the recorded
sound on this disc was occasionally “muddy,” and greater
transparency would have been nice. Nevertheless, the
NOe Tonkünstler Orchestra  provided fine performances, and this
disc is well worth your attention.

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