Carl Schuricht Conducts = Works of R. STRAUSS, LOTHAR, FRANCK, ZANDONAI & REZNICEK – Pristine Audio

by | Jan 20, 2012 | Classical Reissue Reviews

Schuricht Conducts = R. STRAUSS: Symphonica Domestica, Op. 53; LOTHAR: Schneider Wibbel Overture; FRANCK: Le Chasseur maudit; ZANDONAI: Serenata Medioevale; REZNICEK: Donna Diana Overture – State Symphony Orchestra, Berlin (Lothar, Franck)/ Orchestra del Teatro alla Scala, Milano/ Carl Schuricht – Pristine Audio PASC 320, 77:44 [avail. in various formats from] ****:
Carl Schuricht (1880-1967) belongs to the same humanistic tradition and generation as Furtwaengler, Knappertsbusch, and Klemperer, immersed in the musical canon of Middle Europe.  Mostly an itinerant conductor, except for an extended tenure in Wiesbaden (1923-1944) and Dresden (1942-1944), Schuricht led ensembles of note, including the Vienna Philharmonic, Berlin Philharmonic, Munich Philharmonic, Amsterdam Concertgebouw, and Ernest Ansermet’s L’Orchestre de la Suisse Romande. Schuricht gleaned a considerable repute for his lofty renditions of music by Mahler and Bruckner. For this Pristine collection of records inscribed 1941-1942, master editor and producer Mark Obert-Thorn assembles wartime performances Schuricht made in repertory both familiar and relatively forgotten.
The program opens with music by Mark Lothar (1902-1985), his 1937 Overture from Schneider Wibbel (rec. 1942, Berlin) recorded for Grammophon, a performance formerly available on the pirate Lys label (135). A patter piece, the alternately rowdy and sentimental overture moves in the spirit of German orientalism, its spiritual predecessor likely Weber’s Abu Hassan. From the same 1942 sessions comes the Franck 1882 symphonic poem Le Chasseur maudit, after a ballad by Gottfried Buerger, which suffers distant sonics but still conveys a warm affectionate sympathy. The opening bells that call the faithful to prayer only impel a Count of the Rhine to break the Sabbath and suffer an eternal damned pursuit by avenging demons. Schuricht favors lyricism over dramatic terror in this piece, so for truly hair-raising effects we must seek out readings by Munch, Beecham, Cluytens, Defauw, and Scherchen. Strong horn and string work from Schuricht’s Berlin ensemble keep our interest in hearing the ferocious fateful concluding pages.
The music of Riccardo Zandonai (1883-1944) barely survives in the concert hall, so his singular claim to fame rests with his 1914 opera Francesca da Rimini. The 1912 Serenata Medioevale (rec. Milan, 1941) features sweet string work with harp, and the solo cello of Enzo Martinenghi. The sound proves distant, and only the strong articulation of the playing saves the musical filigree from complete obscurity. The bucolic, hazy score achieves a degree of intensity and lyric outpouring that aligns it with landscape music by Butterworth, Delius, or Respighi. The 1894 Overture Donna Diana by Emil von Reznicek made its first impression on record collectors likely via Frederick Stock and the Chicago Symphony. The TV program Sergeant Preston of the Yukon employed it, as I recall. Schuricht (rec. Milan, 1941) keeps the perky score moving, the tricky metrics and lithe woodwind scoring his meat and potatoes.
Having just recently reviewed a performance of the Richard Strauss 1898 Domestic Symphony by Joseph Keilberth, I need not recount the movement-by-movement individual virtues of the piece, with its diurnal counterpoints. Schuricht (rec. Milan, 1941) provides a degree of emotional heft in the “Wiegenlied” section that raises the music’s status both harmonically and thematically.  Great delicacy in the woodwind texture, accompanied by strings, seems at moments to recall former tunes from tone-poems like Death and Transfiguration, especially as the music of the Adagio swells, but the tenor has become gently nostalgic rather than turbulent and tragic. At times, Strauss assembles colors for their own sake, perhaps to indicate the composer’s attempt to work imaginatively within the confines of a cumbersome domestic situation. The “family” motif reigns supreme, however, an elastically noble sentiment whose kin must be the main theme from Ein Heldenleben.  We hear a clock chime, and the polyphony of the Finale asserts the supremacy of nuclear family bonds. The Teatro all Scala trumpets and horns respond vigorously and clearly in the course of the tumbling dissonances and reconciliations. The solo violin, in recollection of “the Hero’s helpmeet” in Op. 40 adds that ineffable touch of grace that keeps a happy domicile dancing and singing.
—Gary Lemco

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