John Axelrod

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15 Apr 2008
Franz Schreker reviewed by All Music Guide
All Music Guide

"Franz Schreker, the heir apparent to the style -- if not to the mantle -- of Gustav Mahler, also had a school; that is, he taught and was very highly regarded as teacher. While reams of dissertations have been written and enough records to fuel a '60s-era Beatles record bonfire made in recognition of the Schoenberg "second Vienna school," interest in Schreker as pedagogue is a uniquely twenty-first century development. The Nimbus disc Franz Schreker und seiner Schüler features two early works of Schreker in addition to a pair of song settings of his student, the little known Julius Bürger, and the first symphony of another pupil, Ernst Krenek. It's interesting to see Krenek in the context of Schreker's orbit, rather than that of the Vienna serialists, where he is often lumped; Krenek is such a tough sell that such context doesn't hurt him at all.

This is a beautifully transparent recording, full, spacious, and clear. Both of the Schreker works -- the Intermezzo, Op. 8, and the never-before-recorded Scherzo for strings (1900) -- contain ample evidence of Schreker's mature style, though both were composed when he was only 22. The Krenek is like how Richard Strauss might have sounded if he'd every picked up neo-Classicism as doctrine; it applies Strauss' ever-wandering chromaticism, and grafts it to naked and spare orchestral textures. The real gem of the collection is the music of Bürger; his solidly post-romantic, only slightly harmonically advanced songs after texts by Christian Morgenstern and Gottfried Keller are the works closest to Schreker's own mature style. Dating from 1919, these settings are strongly reminiscent of Schreker's opera Die Gezeichneten, which had opened only the previous year. They are sung very well by baritone Dietrich Henschel; John Axelrod and the Luzerner Sinfonieorchester perform these obscure and unfamiliar pieces as if they were as comfortable and familiar as if it were the Mahler Eighth.

Franz Schreker und seiner Schüler is a top-rate entry in the growing catalog of recordings that explores the work of Franz Schreker in some depth, and would be well enjoyed by Schreker's following or any listener interested in German music of the early twentieth century."

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