ALBUM TITLE: Schreker
WORKS: Der Schatzgräber – Symphonic interlude; Die Gezeichneten – Prelude; Das Spielwerk – Prelude; Der ferne Klang – Nachstück; Vorspiel zu einer grossen Oper
PERFORMER: Royal Swedish Orchestra/ Lawrence Renes
CATALOGUE NO: BIS-2212 (hybrid CD/SACD)
Few 20th-century composers have suffered more from the vicissitudes of fashion than Franz Schreker. Hailed in the period following the First World War as the most significant figure in German opera since Wagner, Schreker and his voluptuous, erotically charged music quickly fell out of favour as the artistic environment in the Weimar Republic moved towards a more austere and objective mode of expression. Thereafter, Hitler’s accession to power dealt the final blow to any possible revival of interest in his work, and the composer was now branded as a degenerate.
Yet Schreker’s influence surely lived on in the very different environment of the Hollywood blockbusters of the 1930s and ’40s. Any listener doing a blind tasting of the five operatic preludes and interludes featured here would be justified in believing this was high-quality film music, even though it was actually conceived many years before sound cinema was a reality.
Perhaps the most striking aspect of these excerpts is their sensuality of sonority, confirming without question that Schreker was an absolute master of the orchestra. He synthesises a passionately chromatic Tristan-esque musical language with a subtlety of timbre that places him close to Debussy. Lawrence Renes and the Royal Swedish Orchestra revel in the music’s extravagance, delivering strongly committed and full-blooded performances supported by a crystal-clear recording that allows you to hear every detail in these intricate scores. Anyone who has a weakness for early Schoenberg, Zemlinsky and Korngold will want to hear this disc.
Listen to an excerpt from this recording here.