Schreker: Christophorus

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Schreker
LABELS: CPO
ALBUM TITLE: Schreker: Christophorus
WORKS: Christophorus
PERFORMER: Susanne Bernhard, Jörg Sabrowski, Robert Chafin, Hans Georg Ahrens; Kiel Opera Chorus; Kiel PO/Ulrich Windfuhr
CATALOGUE NO: 999 903-2
This is a peculiar work, even by the standards Franz Schreker set in his earlier operas. Briefly extremely popular in the 1920s, his ‘typical inflation music’ (Klemperer’s phrase) underwent a rapid slump. Christophorus, which concerns a music student who composes an opera on the life of St Christopher, reflects Schreker’s reactions to his waning fame. There’s a lot of spoken dialogue, an opera within an opera, and bewildering confusions of imagination and reality. Schreker’s attraction to sex and violence is also evident, though he liked to dress his interest in fancy intellectual posturings.

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The musical idiom is as eclectic as everything else about this magpie work, sounding now like Hindemith, now like Richard Strauss. In this spirited live performance, the central tenor role of Anselm is sung tirelessly and expressively by Robert Chafin. Susanne Bernhard, who as Lisa causes all the trouble, both erotic and artistic, is ardent and strong, if sometimes rather edgy. The voices are well forward. The conducting, as throughout this Schreker series, is expertly managed by Windfuhr. Anyone interested in the deliquescence of late Romantic opera should certainly collect this ripe specimen, of which it seems most unlikely there will be another recording. The notes are outstandingly full and helpful, and the text (slightly fuller than the performance) provided in German and English. Michael Tanner