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Winterberg: Sinfonia drammatica; Rhythmophonie etc

Jonathan Powell (piano); Berlin Radio Symphony/Johannes Kalitzke (Capriccio)

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

Sinfonia dramatica; Piano Concerto No. 1; Rhythmophonie
Jonathan Powell (piano); Berlin Radio Symphony/Johannes Kalitzke
Capriccio C5476   64:42 mins


The music of Hans Winterberg (1901–91) was almost completely unknown until relatively recently. Born into a Jewish family in Prague, Winterberg’s compositional development was inevitably disrupted after the Nazi invasion of 1939 and his internment in Terezín. Yet ironically, his position became even more precarious following Germany’s defeat in 1945. As a German-speaking Czech, he was now regarded as a persona non grata in his native country and, two years later, sought refuge in Bavaria, where he spent the rest of his life.

The three works featured here stem from different periods, but share a similar concern, as outlined in Michael Haas’s indispensable booklet notes, to forge a stylistic link between the Slavic East and the Austro-German West. In the Sinfonia drammatica of 1936, Winterberg’s musical language is more closely aligned to the Second Viennese School, emulating a Bergian level of expressionism in its most intense moments. The pulsating percussive writing of the First Piano Concerto dating from 1948 suggests a stronger affinity with Bartók and Prokofiev. Undoubtedly, the most substantial piece is Rhythmophonie (1967) which, as its title suggests, exploits complex and often intriguing rhythmic patterns clothed in some colourful orchestration.

Thanks to his penchant for writing short and succinct movements. Winterberg’s tough, gritty and uncompromising music never outstays its welcome. It certainly receives persuasive advocacy from Johannes Kalitzke and the Berlin Radio Symphony, and Jonathan Powell does a terrific job in projecting the piano concerto’s dynamic energy.

Erik Levi

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