GMCD 7411 – Fritz Brun – Symphony No. 4 & Rhapsody for Orchestra

Moscow Symphony Orchestra, Adriano (conductor)

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MusicWeb International July 2016

Volumes 9 and 10 in the Brun-Adriano-Guild series were surveyed here recently in a composite review. However I had overlooked Volume 6 which I introduce here. The site has now reviewed all the Adriano-Guild-Brun CDs.

Brun’s Symphony No. 4 is in three long-breathed movements that run for not far short of an hour. A most poetic yet always mobile Poco mosso con tranquillità launches the symphony. Brun’s ideas are philosophical and meditative. This topography is shot through on rare occasions with sturdy lightning strokes à la Brahms (7:00). After a troubled Mosso con rabbia the finale (Andante – Allegro energico – Tranquillo – Wuchtig) is at times a showcase for the brass benches. They ideally capture the bolts and tempests of the movement and are superbly caught by the engineers. This central movement has tremendous bite and casts a black and fearful shadow. At times it briefly gives way to a golden Straussian exuberance. The symphony ends in a blaze of power that is part Brucknerian and in part redolent of Bruno Walter’s Symphony in D Minor (1909).

The Brun Symphony No. 4 was premiered in Zurich by the Tonhalle Orchestra conducted by Volkmar Andreae, whose own works have been recorded by Guild (review review).

From a quarter century after the Symphony No. 4 comes the Rhapsody for Orchestra. It’s a product of the same year that saw the death of Brun’s younger friend, Othmar Schoeck. Brun himself was to die two years later. It’s stirringly atmospheric with a dense cantabile of strands and a strong string-instrument ‘signature’. It is backward-looking in style, romantic and still speaks of a composer tightly gripped by a language that has served him well and with which he is still quite infatuated. The music is by no means as static as I have suggested. It rises several times to some furiously animated Brahmsian protests but knowing Brun we are not surprised when these episodes fall back into a predominance of gloriously aureate and expansively rolled out tone.

The liner-note by Adriano with editing by Ian Lace is again highly detailed and very welcome too. It’s in English and German. The music is well played as expected and the recording is to match.

Brun is pictured with a memorably fearful or quizzical expression in the photograph on the rear of the booklet.

This is one of the strongest Brun discs from the Adriano-Guild series. It shows that this composer, with his reputation for pictorial-contemplative writing dancing in attendance, has a gift for lively, gritty dramatic backbone. It’s a good place to start exploring this composer.
Rob Barnett

Gramophone – march 2015

‘It is not my favourite amongst my symphonies. For the first time, I felt the music of Bruckner “distracting” me; it overcame me and I found it hard to resist its influence.’ Thus Lucerne-born composer and conductor Fritz Brun (18781959) on the Fourth of his 10 symphonies, in a correspondence with Hermann Scherchen dated October 1, 1939. Brun had completed the work 14 years previously; Volkmar Andreae gave the world premiere in Zurich’s Tonhalle on February 1, 1926. Lasting some 47 minutes, it’s in three movements, the first of which (marked Poco mosso, con tranquillità) assigns a prominent role to the horn very much in the mould of Bruckner’s Romantic Symphony and whose blissful progress seems to mirror the breathtaking landscape around Morcote on Lake Lugano in the Swiss canton of Ticino where it was conceived. Next comes a scherzo in all but name, whose agitated, even irascible outer portions contrast pleasingly with the nobly contemplative Adagio sostenuto at its heart. The extended finale serves up plenty of satisfyingly knotty dialogue, before tying together the threads for an exuberant payoff. Stylistically, there are nods towards Bruckner, Mahler and Franz Schmidt; intriguingly, Brun’s orchestration has something of the craggy individuality of Havergal Brian’s. The very late Rhapsody (1957) comprises an amiable 10-minute score of no great consequence. Like the symphony, it suffers from a dearth of what I would term truly distinctive inspiration. The composer’s countryman, Adriano, secures a plucky response from his Moscow band, but neither the orchestral playing nor slightly dry recorded sound represent exactly the last word in refinement. Diehards will doubtless want to acquire this; others should proceed with caution.

Andrew Achenbach – September 2015

If you’ve been following and collecting the splendid series of recordings being issued by Guild Records of the symphonies by Swiss composer Fritz Brun, you likely need little encouragement to acquire this most recent release beyond an awareness it exists. In this issue, Brun’s Fourth Symphony (1925) has been programmed alongside the composer’s Rhapsody for Orchestra (1957). All but one of the installments in the Guild series is performed by the Moscow Symphony Orchestra, as is the case here, and all are conducted by Swiss-born conductor and composer Adriano.
Fritz Brun (1878-1959) composed ten symphonies between the years 1901 and 1953. He was a gifted symphonist and he concentrated on this talent; his oeuvre is primarily orchestral. In addition to the symphonies, there are a couple of concertos, one each for piano and for cello, and some chamber works. Brun’s music is written in a neo-romantic style, displaying influences of Brahms, Wagner, Bruckner and Reger. He is one of a rather large body of composers who have emerged on recordings in recent years, whose desire it was to extend the romantic tradition in a natural and unquestionably conservative way (Salomon Jadassohn, Louis Glass and Marcel Tyberg, for example). While certainly not deaf to the trends of his time, Brun wrote music that is consistently tonal, melodic and engaging, richly orchestrated and dramatic.
While more than thirty years separate the two works on this recording, little stylistic change is evident. The sample provided for you to hear is from the opening movement of the Symphony No. 4. If you’re enjoying it, you’ll be pleased to know that Guild has invested significantly in this little known, yet highly deserving composer, having recorded a half dozen albums in all of his orchestral music.
James Gram