Schreker: Die Gezeichneten

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COMPOSERS: Schreker
LABELS: Decca Entartete Musik
WORKS: Die Gezeichneten
PERFORMER: Heinz Kruse, Elizabeth Connell, Monte Pederson, Alfred Muff, Laszlo Polgar; Berlin Radio Chorus, Deutsches SO, Berlin/Lothar Zagrosek
CATALOGUE NO: 444 442-2 DDD
As a self-confessed musical eroticist, it is unsurprising that – his Jewishness apart – Franz Schreker was labelled as a ‘degenerate’ by the Nazi cultural purists. Die Gezeichneten (‘The Branded’ or ‘The Marked Ones’) has been recorded before, for Marco Polo, and has been staged recently in Dusseldorf and Zurich, so is not as completely forgotten as other works in Decca’s Entartete Musik series. Its composition came about when Schreker was asked by his friend Alexander Zemlinsky to write a libretto on the subject of ‘the tragedy of the ugly man’, which Schreker then decided to set himself between 1911 and 1915.

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The music is typical of its period. Anyone already hooked on Korngold or Zemlinsky will warm to its heady, yearning melodies and harmonies, its lush orchestration and its sordid psychological drama about a deformed Genoese nobleman’s tragic love for a local beauty, set against the ultimate in natural beauty he has created in an island park (scene for an orgy in the last act).

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Instantly eclipsing the Marco Polo recording, this new one could hardly be bettered, with Elizabeth Connell a touchingly vulnerable and passionate Carlotta and Heinz Kruse and Monte Pederson an ardent pair of rivals for her love. The playing of the Deutsches SO is both sublime and dramatic and Zagrosek has full command of this complex score. Matthew Rye