One of my favorite "finds" of London's Entartete series has been the music
of Franz Schreker. (1878-1934) I have written about him at length in
previous postings and those, of course, can be found in the archives.
Schreker was second only to Strauss in his day. His music can be advanced
enough to sound like post-Gurrelieder Schoenberg, or Berg; but he retains
enough conventional melody and kitsch to keep at least this listener's
ears riveted, and brain unconfused. His music is marked by bitonality,
sprightly rhythms, impressionist textures, and most importantly: a sense
of proportion, follow-through, and stylistic consistency that, (to me),
eludes most of the other Entartete "discoveries," including, unfortunately,
A quick mention of four of his works that IMHO belong in anyone's
"Die Gezeichneten:" Probably the best of Schreker's operas, (though
many haven't been recorded). Voluptuous and extravagant music. A radio
performance of it featuring the old Marco Polo recording kept me in my car
for quite awhile, trying to figure out who the composer was. You will be
treated to a gripping overture, two extended love scenes, and a third-act
prelude that conjures up the beguiling island of Elysium. (A nit to pick?
A *very* busy and awkwardly-set libretto.) But the music!
"Der Geburtstag der Infantin:" Schreker's typically unique voice and
striking orchestral technique are once again obvious from the very opening
measures. Large forces, impressionist touches, sprightly rhythms, and one
of the most beautiful and wistful melodies of the 20th Century. Available
on the London CD entitled "Tanz Grotesk."
The Chamber Symphony: A recent release, actually on the EMI label with
Franz Welser Most. Schreker: a composer who seeks to impair our artistic
judgement and taste with overly-large orchestras and gaudy textures.... If
this is your feeling, try out the Chamber Symphony, written for 22 players.
Shimmering, ethereal, and beautiful; this work should win over even the
most jaundiced of ears.
Finally, "From Eternal Life," for Soprano and Orchestra. The soprano
voice is set much more effectively (sorry Franz!) than is the case with
Gezeichneten, and the orchestra is scaled down to chamber-sized forces.
The text is by Walt Whitman, whose words are couched by the composer's
typically riveting music, being fantastic and wistful by turns. This
music can be found on the Koch label and features the extremely able and
beautifully voiced Claudia Barainsky. The CD also includes three overtures
from "Irrelohe," and "Prelude to a Grand Opera," based upon a projected
opera entitled, "Memnon." Schreker died on March 21, 1934 and was not able
to set any of the libretto.