Tiessen

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Tiessen
LABELS: Koch Schwann
WORKS: Symphony No. 2 (Stirb und Werde); Hamlet Suite; Vorspiel zu einem Revolutionsdrama; Salambo Suite
PERFORMER: Berlin RSO/Israel Yinon
CATALOGUE NO: 3-1490-2
Heinz Tiessen (1887-1971) was yet another highly promising German composer whose career seems to have been blighted by the rise of National Socialism. During the Twenties, he had established himself as a leading figure in Berlin musical life, forging a powerfully distinctive expressionist style, and joining the influential Novembergruppe, where alongside such figures as Weill and Stefan Wolpe, he lent strong support to the socialist wing of German politics. Remaining in Germany throughout the Third Reich, he fell victim to Nazi censorship, and suffered further indignity when most of his music was destroyed in an air raid. The postwar years brought rehabilitation, but in the new cultural climate dominated by serialism, his stylistic outlook was deemed anachronistic and irrelevant.

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Yet it seems hardly credible that music of such undoubted quality should have been consigned to virtual oblivion for so long, The one-movement Second Symphony, although indebted to Richard Strauss, already betokens a determined individual spirit prepared to break the bounds of conventional tonality to heighten expressive impact. This feature is even more pronounced in the other works – the dark and menacing Hamlet Suite composed for Max Reinhardt, a rhetorical Prelude to a Revolutionary Drama and the marvellously atmospheric Salambo. Israel Yinon deserves considerable praise for championing Tiessen, and while the orchestral playing isn’t absolutely flawless, it is sufficiently committed to make one eager to hear more from this composer. Erik Levi