WORKS: Symphony No. 1; Symphony No. 2
PERFORMER: Prague RSO/Vladimir Válek
CATALOGUE NO: 11 2160-2
It’s a measure of Erwin Schulhoff’s astonishing increase in popularity over recent years that there are currently as many as three or four alternative versions of his first two symphonies on the market. Válek’s new recording may not score high marks for generous playing time, but the performance of the First Symphony, premiered in Berlin in 1928 under Erich Kleiber, is easily the finest of all. Válek achieves both a more convincing blend of instrumental colour in the oriental ostinati patterns of the first movement, and a greater degree of characterisation of melodic lines in the ensuing Andante con moto than any of his rivals.
In the leaner-textured Second Symphony, however, Válek faces formidable competition from Gerd Albrecht and Czech PO in outstanding form on Orfeo. In the finale, I prefer Albrecht’s spirited approach to the comparatively leaden-footed Válek, though the latter wins hands down for his irresistibly sleazy account of the ‘Scherzo á la jazz’. Erik Levi