Suites & Overtures for the Radio

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COMPOSERS: Braunfels,Butting,Künneke,Schreker,Spoliansky,Toch
ALBUM TITLE: Suites & Overtures for the Radio
WORKS: Works by Braunfels, Butting, Toch, Künneke, Schreker and Spoliansky
PERFORMER: Dresden State Operetta Orchestra/Ernst Theis


During the late 1920s, the various newly established German broadcasting companies embraced new music in particularly enterprising and innovative ways through commissioning some of the country’s leading composers to write music specifically tailored to the medium. Since audio technology was rather primitive at that time, it was something of a challenge to come up with substantial works which also sounded effective on loudspeakers with a limited dynamic range.

Yet judging by the range of music featured in this fascinating collection, composers were inspired to produce pieces that were both stimulating and attractive. Effectively what we get here is a marvellous cross-section of the varied stylistic preoccupations that were in vogue during the last years of the Weimar Republic. The most serious and musically substantial works, reflecting an interesting cross-fertilisation between late-Romanticism and the so-called ‘new objectivity’, are Franz Schreker’s resourcefully scored Kleine Suite and Walter Braunfels’s elegant Divertimento. In contrast, Ernst Toch’s Bunte Suite and the two extended radio works by Max Butting are more hard-edged, employing a dissonant musical language that is close to Hindemith. Lighter relief is provided in the charming Charleston Caprice by Mischa Spoliansky and the Tänzerische Suite for jazz band and orchestra by operetta composer Eduard Künneke, a melodically appealing work that proved so popular at the time that it was even commercially recorded by the Berlin Philharmonic and released during the Nazi era.

Ernst Theis and the Orchestra of the Staatsoperette Dresden appear to be enjoying themselves enormously throughout the Künneke and deliver vibrant accounts of the rest of these works. Strongly recommended.


Erik Levi