Plays and Operas for the Radio, directed by Ernst Theis

During the early years of broadcasting, no country embraced the harnessing of new music to the fledgling technology of radio with the same degree of zeal as Germany. As a previous volume in this invaluable series from CPO has already indicated, the music commissioned by German regional broadcasting stations covered a vast array of contemporary styles from hard-edged modernism to witty assimilations of popular dance music, the latter most brilliantly realised here in Wilhelm Grosz’s sequence of cabaret songs entitled Bänkel und Balladen. But the major part of this hybrid collection focuses on little-known radio plays with music from the late 1920s, exemplified by Hindemith’s witty Sabinchen and Mord by the Schoenberg pupil Walter Gronostay, an all-too familiar criminal story of marital infidelity that ends with a murder projected over the loudspeakers with pistol shots. More ambitious in scale is the radio opera based on the Grimm brothers’ fairy tale Jorinde und Joringel by Heinrich Sutermeister. First broadcast in Munich in the mid-1930s when the radio station was under Nazi control, this atmospherically orchestrated score by a pupil of Carl Orff reflects the Swiss composer’s evident admiration for Stravinsky. Not surprisingly this influence displeased the authorities who subsequently banned the work.  Another composition that fell foul of the censors was the staunchly anti-war Berliner Requiem by Kurt Weill setting poems by Bertolt Brecht, performed here in a version that replaces the male chorus with three solo voices to particularly stark impact. It’s the one undoubted masterpiece in the set, and like the rest of the programme is performed with commitment and great immediacy by conductor Ernst Theis and an excellent team of singers and instrumentalists. Erik Levi

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Various composers
LABELS: CPO
ALBUM TITLE: Plays and Operas for the Radio
WORKS: Gronostay: Mord; Grosz: Banken und Balladen; Haas: Radio Overture; Hindemith: Sabinchen; Sutermeister: Jorinde und Joringel; Weill: Berliner Requiem
PERFORMER: Jens Winkelmann, Jihoon Kim, Gerd Wiemer, Christian Grygas, Jeanette Oswald, Bernd Könnes, Elke Kottmair, Tanja Höft, Marcus Günzel, Inka Lange, Hans-Jürgen Wiese, Wolfgang Schaller, Elmar Andree, Manja Freitag-Feetz, Veit Zorn, Herbert Adami, Jessica Glatte, Frank Ernst; Dresden State Opera Orchestra and Choir; Berlin Radio Orchestra/Ernst Theis
CATALOGUE NO: 7778392

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During the early years of broadcasting, no country embraced the harnessing of new music to the fledgling technology of radio with the same degree of zeal as Germany. As a previous volume in this invaluable series from CPO has already indicated, the music commissioned by German regional broadcasting stations covered a vast array of contemporary styles from hard-edged modernism to witty assimilations of popular dance music, the latter most brilliantly realised here in Wilhelm Grosz’s sequence of cabaret songs entitled Bänkel und Balladen. But the major part of this hybrid collection focuses on little-known radio plays with music from the late 1920s, exemplified by Hindemith’s witty Sabinchen and Mord by the Schoenberg pupil Walter Gronostay, an all-too familiar criminal story of marital infidelity that ends with a murder projected over the loudspeakers with pistol shots.

More ambitious in scale is the radio opera based on the Grimm brothers’ fairy tale Jorinde und Joringel by Heinrich Sutermeister. First broadcast in Munich in the mid-1930s when the radio station was under Nazi control, this atmospherically orchestrated score by a pupil of Carl Orff reflects the Swiss composer’s evident admiration for Stravinsky. Not surprisingly this influence displeased the authorities who subsequently banned the work. 

Another composition that fell foul of the censors was the staunchly anti-war Berliner Requiem by Kurt Weill setting poems by Bertolt Brecht, performed here in a version that replaces the male chorus with three solo voices to particularly stark impact. It’s the one undoubted masterpiece in the set, and like the rest of the programme is performed with commitment and great immediacy by conductor Ernst Theis and an excellent team of singers and instrumentalists.

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Erik Levi