FRITZ BRUN: Symphony No. 9; From the Book of Job – Moscow Symphony Orchestra/ Adriano, conductor – Guild

by | Feb 23, 2008 | Classical CD Reviews | 0 comments

FRITZ BRUN: Symphony No. 9; From the Book of Job – Moscow Symphony Orchestra/ Adriano, conductor – Guild GMCD 7306, 61:17, ***(*):

Fritz Brun is a Swiss composer who was born in Lucerne in 1878. He followed a standard course of studies that included one Willem Mengelberg as a piano instructor. He migrated to Berlin as private teacher and musician to Prince George of Prussia. In 1903 he returned to Bern and settled for good, accepting the invitation to become the city’s orchestra conductor, along with several choral societies. He finally retired to the shores of Lake Lugano, and died near the end of 1959. He wrote ten major symphonies, and if this one is anything like the others then his neglect has been truly unjustified.

Aside from the symphonies there is a considerable catalog of works that include several tone poems, a Piano Concerto, a Cello Concerto, songs, four Sting Quartets, and three or four more significant chamber works. I notice that his Symphony No. 3 and the string quartets have also been recorded, the former by these same forces here.

The music is deceptive—you must give it a chance to unwind, but when it starts (which is very soon), the sheer inventiveness and melodic inspiration become blatantly apparent. Though his personality was said to be considerably gruff (and with a temper to boot), this is not what we hear in this most joyous and life-enhancing music. The sunny mood that he creates in this work follows closely his own autobiographical instincts according to the events in his life at the time. He initially delivered a program, very detailed, for the first performance, wherein he speaks of scenarios involving friends, love, artistic discussions, arguments about art and politics, and finally, in the fifth and last movement, “I see the great magnificence and can’t behold enough of it…Then, under the firmament, my heart tells me in my breast: there is something better in the world than all its pain and pleasure”.

Not bad words to live by even today.

These words were quoted from the German poet Matthias Claudius (1740-1815), and are from a very passionate poem about love for life and hope. The symphony oozes these sentiments in every movement, and its late romantic, though tempered musical expression is one that simply cannot be resisted.

The coupling on this release, From The Book of Job, is not terribly different in tone from the symphony, even though it predates it by 41 years. It is more of a young man’s take on a profound subject (suffering, redemption, and its meaning), and is certainly more derivative, as young works always are. But it is nevertheless an assertive and persuasive piece, entertaining in its own right.

Guild provides some excellent sound for this release, and the orchestra comes through with great dynamic ranges and a wide, clear soundstage. My only problem is some of the playing—the Moscow Symphony sounds under-rehearsed in many places, and there are some sloppy phrases and ragged ensemble. But overall this is recommendable to those who desire to hear an authentic voice that has been truly neglected—you will not be disappointed.

— Steven Ritter

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