Der Ferne Klang - Orchestral Works and Songs by Franz Schreker. © 2023 Deutsche Grammophon GmbH

CD Spotlight

Lush and Tender

GEOFF PEARCE recommends a new recording of orchestral music and songs by Franz Schreker

'... these performances make a very compelling case to perform Schreker's music much more often.'


This fantastic album draws its title, Der Ferne Klang, from Franz Schreker's opera with this name, and the first piece on the album is taken from the third act and is entitled Nachtstück. Straight away, the music reveals the hand of a master orchestrator, with a touch that is reminiscent of Mahler. The atmosphere, at times slightly unsettling, yet lush and tender at the same time took my breath away by its sheer beauty. One is also reminded at times of the music of Schoenberg and Berg, particularly their early music. The orchestra is large, but often the employment of these forces is of almost chamber proportions, and when the full weight of the Konzerthausorchester Berlin is employed, it is never bombastic.

Listen — Schreker: Nachtstück (Der Ferne Klang Act III Interlude)
(00028948639908 track 1, 11:02-12:01) ℗ 2023 Deutsche Grammophon GmbH :

Valse Lente is a short rather wistful piece, delicately scored and quite tender. Even the climax is restrained. It is full of muted strings, delicate woodwind solos and is a delight to listen to.

Listen — Schreker: Valse Lente
(00028948639908 track 2, 2:36-3:33) ℗ 2023 Deutsche Grammophon GmbH :

Again in the four movement Kammersymphonie, the composer shows that he is at home when the scoring is light and delicate, and also when he lets loose the full force. One can certainly hear again the influence of early Schoenberg, Berg and also Zemlinsky. There is so much tonal colour and there are delicious and quite exciting tonal shifts. This is a work that deserves a much more prominent place in the concert repertoire, and I think recordings such as this will go a long way to foster that.

Listen — Schreker: Langsam, schwebend (Kammersymphonie)
(00028948639908 track 6, 3:58-4:36) ℗ 2023 Deutsche Grammophon GmbH :

Two songs for soprano and orchestra, written in 1923 and 1927 on poems of Walt Whitman are entitled Vom ewigen Leben (Of Eternal Life). The harmonic and melodic language is perhaps more progressive than the earlier works on the disc, but is no less beautiful and I think most listeners will relish hearing these neglected works. Chen Reiss is a beautiful singer and her intonation is absolutely accurate. Because of the free harmonies and wandering melodic line, these songs would be quite difficult to sing.

Listen — Schreker: Wurzeln und Halme sind dies nur (Vom ewigen Leben)
(00028948639908 track 7, 2:17-2:56) ℗ 2023 Deutsche Grammophon GmbH :

Fümf Gesänge - five songs for lower voice - were written were written between 1902 and 1922, the first one being the setting of a song from The Arabian Nights, and the remaining four being settings of poems by the symbolist poet Edith Ronsperger, and form a small song cycle, where a man describes his love for a woman, but is driven to despair and separation, before nostalgia and at the end, death and redemption. They are sung here by the very fine Matthias Goerne, a singer I always enjoy. They are not the most joyous of songs and there are moments of quite strong emotion. The tonality is free, like a lot of Schreker's music, but it sounds completely natural and beautiful, but at times also emotionally disturbing, not at all out of place, given the subject matter.

Listen — Schreker: Dies aber kann mein Sehnen nimmer fassen
(Fümf Gesänge)
(00028948639908 track 10, 0:00-0:35) ℗ 2023 Deutsche Grammophon GmbH :

Kleine Suite for chamber orchestra is neoclassical in style and consists of six short movements. Again the composer shows his mastery of tone colour and orchestration. It was composed in 1928 and at times I am reminded of the Stravinsky of Pulcinella. I am especially fond of the third piece that features some beautiful oboe and cor anglais playing.

Listen — Schreker: Canon (Kleine Suite)
(00028948639908 track 16, 0:00-0:48) ℗ 2023 Deutsche Grammophon GmbH :

The final work on this disc is the Romantische Suite, Op 14 - the only work on the disc listed with an opus number. It is in four movements that are a little bit longer than the previous suite. It was composed in 1903. This is a fine work that again should be programmed and recorded much more often. The musical language and overall feel, whilst romantic and almost cinematographic in places, is also unmistakably Schreker, albeit a developing one. I like this work very much.

Listen — Schreker: Tanz (Romantische Suite)
(00028948639908 track 23, 3:09-3:56) ℗ 2023 Deutsche Grammophon GmbH :

This is a fine disc full of music that will be unfamiliar to most. The Konzerthausorchester Berlin is on its best form, Christoph Eschenbach has studied and really appreciates this much neglected composer and these performances make a very compelling case to perform Schreker's music much more often. I liked Chen Reiss's voice very much, but, whilst I enjoyed listening to Matthias Goerne on this occasion, I felt that his voice was not as free as it usually is, sounding a little constrained at the throat. On saying that, I still enjoyed his singing.

The sound of the overall recording was very good, and I heartily recommend this disc.

Copyright © 16 March 2023 Geoff Pearce,
Sydney, Australia



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