Carl Schuricht Conducts, Vol. XIV = REZNICEK: Theme and Variations for Large Orchestra and Baritone “Tragische Geschichte;” R. STRAUSS: Overture to Guntram; PFITZNER: Overture; REGER: Variations and Fugue – McDaniel, bar./Stuttgart Radio-Sym. – Hanssler

by | Mar 14, 2006 | Classical Reissue Reviews | 0 comments

Carl Schuricht Conducts, Vol. XIV = REZNICEK: Theme and Variations for Large Orchestra and Baritone “Tragische Geschichte;” R. STRAUSS: Overture to Guntram, Op. 25; PFITZNER: Overture to Kaethchen von Heilbronn, Op. 17; REGER: Variations and Fugue on a Theme of Mozart, Op. 132 – Barry McDaniel, baritone (Reznicek)/ Stuttgart Radio-Symphony Orchestra

Hanssler Classic mono CD 93.154,  73:09 (Distrib. Allegro) ****:

Inscriptions 1950-1960 by Carl Schuricht (1880-1967) of several late Romantic scores, including a lengthy Theme and Variations by Emil Nikolaus von Reznicek (1860-1945), whose repute rests on his singular success with his overture to Donna Diana. Reznicek’s set of variations (1921) takes up a rustic minuet tune and takes it through a series of peregrinations which culminate in a sung ballad from Adelbert von Chamisso, the same poet who inspired Schumann’s Frauenliebe und Leben, Op. 42. The so-called “Tragic Story” relates an absurd attempt by a fellow to change the position of his pigtail, so it would not be following him. The entire series of variants possesses a mock-epic, ironic character, and the performance (2 December 1960) suggests a close kinship with Till Eulenspiegel of Richard Strauss plus a touch of Kurt Weill.

Wagner’s strong influence manifests itself in both the Strauss Overture to Guntram (1893) and Pfitzner’s Kaethchen von Heilbronn (1905).  The Strauss Overture (23 March 1956) to his first stage work enjoys shimmering colors in the manner of Lohengrin, including a violin duet and harp riffs, a tinge of the triangle. The motifs are heraldic, the subject a medieval minnesinger. Singing, plastic phrases rule, and the Stuttgart players produce a lush patina worthy of the Philadelphia Orchestra. Also set along the lines of chivalric romance, Pfitzner’s overture (20 January 1956) responds to a drama by Kleist with a color tapestry in which the flute and modal strings intertwine. The horns and low winds, then the tympani, introduce a darkly ominous theme which builds in tension and passing dissonance, then it settles down uneasily until the horns again pick up our spirits, in tones reminiscent of the film scores by Erich Wolfgang Korngold.

The big piece is Reger’s set of variations (1914) on Mozart’s theme from the A Major Sonata, K. 331 – perhaps Reger’s most popular orchestral composition. Taped in live performance (5 November 1950), Schuricht leads an alternately swaggering and lilting rendition, gradually increasing the tempo of the eight variations as they free themselves of the original until a free fantasy results (variation vii, molto sostenuto). The color mix is decidedly Brahmsian, as cross-fertilized by Humperdinck and Strauss, the progression a tad more academic than is Brahms’ wont. The piece ends with a nine-minute double fugue on two different subjects from Mozart’s original, allowing Schuricht’s clarinets, violins, and brass to strut their virtuosity.  This CD provides an excellent survey of fresh, unfamiliar scores as performed by a master craftsman and his totally responsive ensemble.

— Gary Lemco

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