Schreker: Der Geburtstag der Infantin Suite; Das Weib des Intaphernes

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LABELS: Koch Schwann
WORKS: Der Geburtstag der Infantin Suite; Das Weib des Intaphernes
PERFORMER: Lena Stolze (narrator); German SO Berlin/Gerd Albrecht
CATALOGUE NO: 3-6591-2
The two works here come from opposite ends of Franz Schreker’s career. The Birthday of the Infanta began life as a dance-pantomime based on Oscar Wilde’s novella put on in Vienna in 1908 by the Jugendstil painter Gustav Klimt no less. Originally written for chamber orchestra, Schreker later made this suite for full orchestra. Albrecht’s is overall a less convincing performance than the currently deleted Decca Entartete Musik one from Lothar Zagrosek and the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra. By more than halving the tempo of his rival, Albrecht turns the chirpy opening ‘Round Dance’ into an overblown operatic prelude, though his no-holds-barred approach to the luscious but melancholy closing movement pays off, crowned as it is by a beautiful cello solo.


The melodrama The Wife of Intaphernes was Schreker’s last dramatic work, written a year before his death in 1934. Albrecht’s is the second recording of this work, only premiered in 1990. He pips the existing Capriccio recording (reviewed in December) by having a female narrator for what is essentially a drama about a woman’s dilemma told from her perspective. Koch scuppers our goodwill, however, in neglecting to provide a text and translation. And given the ardour that Lena Stolze puts into her performance one wants to know what she’s emoting about every inch of the way. The descriptive power of the music helps, and Albrecht directs an even more vital reading of this fascinating example of German Expressionism than Peter Gülke does for Capriccio. Matthew Rye