Krenek: Symphony No. 2

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COMPOSERS: Krenek
LABELS: Decca Entartete Musik
WORKS: Symphony No. 2
PERFORMER: Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra/Lothar Zagrosek
CATALOGUE NO: 452 479-2
Ernst Krenek can almost certainly be regarded as the archetypal composer of the Weimar Republic, dabbling at one time or another in a bewildering array of styles from expressionism to jazz and neo-classicism. In the powerful Second Symphony, which received a controversial premiere in Kassel in 1923, expressionist elements are very much to the fore in the uncompromisingly atonal musical language and the extreme contrasts of dynamic range and emotions. Conceived on a sprawling, almost Mahlerian scale, the work’s overriding messages are those of rebelliousness and anger – an unequivocal response to the turbulent political climate of the period.

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Although later on in life Krenek provided a reasonably explicit programme to help guide listeners through this vast musical canvas, the symphony’s complex structure can only be convincingly deciphered when an experienced conductor is at the helm. Fortunately, Lothar Zagrosek has all the necessary credentials to effect this, having already recorded the work once before with the ORF Symphony Orchestra.

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His new version, moving at a somewhat broader tempo in places, enjoys the benefit of superior engineering and even more incisive orchestral playing. It also outstrips the well-played though under-characterised performance from Takao Ukigaya and the NDR Radio Philharmonic on CPO. In short, another vital addition to Decca’s invaluable Entartete Musik series. Erik Levi