WORKS: Preludes; Romantische Suite
PERFORMER: Cologne PO/James Conlon
CATALOGUE NO: CDC 5 56784 2
James Conlon’s disc of four orchestral works by Franz Schreker (1878-1934) – radiantly performed by the Cologne Philharmonic Orchestra and warmly, but never cloyingly, recorded – is most notable for the so-called preludes: one, the Prelude to a Major Opera (1933), probably intended to stand in the place of the composer’s unfinished magnum opus, Memnon; the other, Prelude to a Drama, an expansion of the overture to the opera Die Gezeichneten (The Marked Ones) of 1913-15.
The latter revels in its Straussian harmonies and waltz rhythms and, in particular, in its sumptuous orchestration. The former soon subverts its leaner, darker manner with naughty chromatic derailments and a magnificent orchestral upholstery to rival its predecessor. Early works – including the beautiful Intermezzo for String Orchestra – completes this CD.
Franz Welser-Most’s disc is notable mainly for Schreker’s Chamber Symphony of 1916, the exquisite ‘echo chamber’ opening of which is a locus classicus of the timbral, rather than melodic and harmonic, approach which has led to claims being made for its composer as something of an innovator. As a whole, however, more familiar late-Romantic gestures prevail here too. These live recordings with the Camerata Academica of Salzburg also include a rather heavy and resonant account of Schubert’s Death and the Maiden Quartet in Mahler’s version for string orchestra. Keith Potter