Label: Nimbus Cat No: NI 5753 Run Time: 71:02 mins Performance: **** Sound: *****
Between 1908 and 1910, the then relatively unknown Austrian composer Franz Schreker wrote a series of ballet scores for the Wiesenthal sisters, pioneers of a new form of expressive dance which attracted the admiration of many prominent artists including Gustav Klimt. The five works that have survived from this collaboration feature here for the first time in a fascinating and beautifully recorded release illustrating not only Schreker's magical sense of instrumental colour but also his ability to encapsulate a specific dramatic atmosphere - ingredients that later helped him establish an individual voice as one of the leading opera composers of his period. The extended score for Oscar Wilde's Birthday of the Infanta, performed here in the newly reconstructed original version that contains more musically varied scenes than the later orchestral suite which the composer arranged in 1923, must be regarded as the most substantial work in this collection, though the luminous sonorities of the haunting Valse Lente and the almost impressionist chamber piece Der Wind are no less attractive. John Axelrod and the Lucerne Symphony Orchestra steer a persuasive course through each of these scores, relishing in particular the sensual qualities of Schreker's unashamedly indulgent music.