Dessau: Symphony No. 2; Orchestra Music No. 3: Lenin; Symphonic Adaptation (after Mozart’s String Quintet, K614)

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COMPOSERS: Dessau
LABELS: Berlin Classics
WORKS: Symphony No. 2; Orchestra Music No. 3: Lenin; Symphonic Adaptation (after Mozart’s String Quintet, K614)
PERFORMER: Walter Olbertz (piano); Berlin RSO/Rolf Kleinert, Berlin State Opera Chorus, Deutschlandsenders Children’s Choir, Berlin Staatskapelle/Otmar Suitner, Paul Dessau
CATALOGUE NO: 0091822 BC ADD
Although the binding force throughout Paul Dessau’s life remained his strong commitment to socialism, his musical style and identity seem far less defined than that of his fellow Brechtian, Hanns Eisler. This is certainly the case with the present disc featuring orchestral music mainly from the Sixties, though in fairness to Dessau, all three works share a common thread in paying homage to composers of the past. In the neo-classical Second Symphony, originally composed in 1934 but revised thirty years later, Bartók is invoked in the third movement’s brilliant ‘Dance in Bulgarian Rhythms’. The rest of the work is effective enough, if not sufficiently memorable to warrant repeated hearing. More involving is the entertaining and brilliantly performed orchestration of Mozart’s final string quintet, though I can well imagine that purists will be somewhat horrified by many of Dessau’s more wacky adaptations. Perhaps the most problematic work of all, however, is the Orchestra Music dedicated to Lenin and based upon the demagogue’s favourite work, Beethoven’s Appassionata Sonata. While there’s no doubt that Dessau’s paraphrase of Beethoven’s original produces some intriguing musical episodes, the whole work doesn’t seem to hang together, with the final chorus hardly representing a logical culmination to the musical argument. Erik Levi

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