Schreker/Schulhoff/Hindemith

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COMPOSERS: Schreker/Schulhoff/Hindemith
LABELS: Decca Entartete Musik
WORKS: Tanz Grotesk; Der Geburtstag der Infantin
PERFORMER: Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra/Lothar Zagrosek
CATALOGUE NO: 444 182-2 DDD
The three ‘grotesque’ ballet scores on this latest disc in Decca’s ‘Entartete Musik’ series, undoubtedly one of the most important and rewarding from a major label, fulfil most of the Nazis’ criteria for ‘degenerate music’: two of them are by Jewish composers, one of those is jazz-based, and the third is by that then unreformed avant-gardist, Hindemith. Of the three composers, Schreker, sacked from his academic posts, died from the shock within months of the Nazis’ rise to power; Schulhoff, whose devotion to Communism led him to take Soviet citizenship, died in a Bavarian concentration camp in 1942 and Hindemith escaped into exile.

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All three works, though, were written during the heady years of the Weimar Republic or earlier. The Birthday of the Infanta (a 1922 suite from a 1908 score) is based on the same Oscar Wilde story that was later to inspire Zemlinsky’s finest opera. Schreker’s music here is luminous, often poignant, where Schulhoff, in Moonstruck (1925), is jazzy, even raucous – a true child of the Twenties; Hindemith’s The Demon (1922), scored for chamber ensemble, is one of his more colourful and engaging works. Zagrosek directs vivid accounts of all three works and the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra is captured in all its glory by the Decca engineers. Highly recommended. Matthew Rye