WORKS: Sancta Susanna; Tuttifäntchen Suite; Three Songs, Op. 9; Dances from Das Nusch-Nuschi
PERFORMER: Susan Bullock, Della Jones, Ameral Gunson; Leeds Festival Chorus, BBC Philharmonic/Yan Pascal Tortelier
CATALOGUE NO: CHAN 9620
Three years ago the BBC’s Hindemith Weekend at the Barbican presented a triptych of the composer’s one-act expressionist operas from his early maturity. The performances were a revelation – none of the works had apparently been given before in London – and now Chandos offers the third of them, Sancta Susanna, in an equally memorable interpretation, indeed with the same conductor (Yan Pascal Tortelier) and same singer of the title role (Susan Bullock).
The story concerns the sexual arousal of a young nun, who finally gives vent to her repressed longings by stripping naked and embracing the life-size figure of Christ on the altar. This explosive exploration of the borderline between religious fervour and sexual longing is enacted with all the thrilling neurotic violence of Strauss’s Salome, and Tortelier and his team pull no punches.
The Christmas children’s pantomime Tuttifäntchen that came next could hardly be more different. Innocuously tuneful, there seem to be no sexual overtones, which is more than could be said for the ‘erotic burlesque’ Das Nusch-Nuschi, the ‘Nuts-nuts’ of whose title are slang for – oh, never mind! Three of its racy dances are heard here, and Susan Bullock’s heroic rendering of the neo-Wagnerian Three Songs, Op. 9 completes a splendid disc.