ALBUM TITLE: Cerha, Schreker
WORKS: Cerha: Cello Concerto; Schreker: Chamber Symphony
PERFORMER: Heinrich Schiff (cello); Netherlands Radio Chamber Orchestra/Peter Eötvös
CATALOGUE NO: 476 3098
The Austrian composer and conductor Friedrich Cerha, born in 1926 and now in his 80s, is best known for completing Act III of Berg’s Lulu in the 1970s, but his own music has travelled little beyond the Austro-German heartland.
Which is a shame, because his Cello Concerto, completed in 1996 for Heinrich Schiff, is a work of both substance and originality. Schiff himself is the eloquent soloist here, casting off reams of golden tone in the work’s lyrical central movement and never resorting to coarseness in the more energetic music.
The Concerto itself is particularly effective for the intriguing instrumental sounds Cerha finds to combine with his soloist, especially the exotic array of percussion. The only real connection with the other work on this disc, Franz Schreker’s Chamber Symphony, composed in 1916, is their shared Viennese origin.
Since both pieces were recorded as long ago as 2003 it seems likely that ECM has been sitting on them waiting for more suitable couplings to come along and then given up. But then again, ECM does make a habit of pairing chalk with cheese and getting away with it.
Either way, the Cerha should appeal to Schreker fans, and vice versa. Peter Eötvös conducts the Netherlands Radio Chamber Orchestra in a full-blooded, luxuriant account of Schreker’s masterly late-Romantic score, and both works benefit from a generous but immediate recorded sound. Matthew Rye