Schoeck: Piano works (complete)

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LABELS: Musikszene Schweiz
WORKS: Piano works (complete)
PERFORMER: Jean Louis Steuerman (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CD 6146 (distr. Complete)
The Swiss composer Othmar Schoeck is sometimes called the last great composer of Lieder, though surely that was Hugo Wolf some 25 years earlier. Schoeck was bitterly opposed to the innovations of Schoenberg and Hindemith, yet his own style of rarefied chromaticism has a limited expressive range. Still, it also has a distinctive refinement, as you can hear in Schoeck’s own arrangement of an entr’acte from his opera Don Ranudo. Opera was Schoeck’s second main field of composition, and though a professional pianist himself, he wrote comparatively little for his own instrument. The Two Piano Pieces, Op. 29, are attractive – the second of them an effective Toccata written mostly as a rapid single line passed between the hands – while the last four tracks on the disc are innocuous salon pieces. The major item is the collection of ten Ritornelle (preludes, in effect) and Fugues, Op. 68. Some of the Ritornelle are appealing, but the Fugues seem like jigsaw puzzles without a picture. In Schoeck’s defence, it must be said that Jean Louis Steuerman’s playing is unimaginative and unloving, and the recording accentuates his insensitive touch in small, boxy sound. Adrian Jack