Reviews

GMCD 7421 – Fritz Brun – Symphony No. 8, Othmar Schoeck – Three Songs (orch. Brun)

Zuzana Dinková (bass clarinet), Tomáš Janošik (flute), Bratislava Symphony Orchestra, Štefan Filas (concertmaster), Adriano (conductor)

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MusicWeb International July 2016

Here are the concluding volumes in the Brun-Adriano-Guild series. They bring to a triumphant close what has been an epic enterprise which began with sessions in Moscow in 2005. The Guild discs complement Adriano’s recording of Brun’s Symphony No. 3 made by Sterling in 2003.

Some may know of Brun’s Symphony No. 8 from a mono radio recording from 1946 in which the composer conducts. This was issued by Guild in 2009. That historic document will always have a library presence given the composer’s involvement. The present recording is endued with all the benefits of a modern recording which reflects back lots of detail as well as fullness of tone. That tonal repletion suits this score. Brun’s writing is solidly Brahmsian, expansive and late-romantic. The first movement has a galloping horn-led chasseur quality but regularly succumbs to reflection. There’s a smooth and peaceful Adagio followed by a Notturno which includes a most engaging melody for (I think) bass clarinet. The finale is again a Brahms-like Allegro non troppo. That ‘non troppo’ speaks volumes about Brun’s mood and its treatment. Contours are smooth and grandeur, even sternness, is attained but rather like Dvořák and Nielsen there’s nothing in the way of scorch or tragedy. It’s an enjoyable picturesque symphony in which ideas and moods are explored across long paragraphs. Adriano and his well-rehearsed orchestra and engineers respect this. They carry a heavy burden given that these symphonies are to all intents and purposes being introduced for the first time to the listening public.

The Three Schoeck lieder, as orchestrated by Brun, set poems by poets of the German Golden Age. They are downbeat, gloomy, melancholy and strikingly atmospheric with an occasional sinister shading, as in the Lenau setting. This narrow mood range is typical of Schoeck’s songs and Brun is a faithful conspirator in serving and accentuating this. Bernadett Fodor is commandingly forthright; nothing short of operatic. The Keller song is the longest here and both orchestration and substantive lines benefit from what communicates as a sustained sunset – glowing not dazzling and certainly not blazing. The songs were written by Schoeck in 1915-16 and Brun’s orchestration of the songs was premiered in 1916.

The booklet provides neither texts nor translations of the poems set in the three lieder on GMCD 7421. Instead it refers readers to the Guild website. I could not find them when I looked on 2 July 2016. As with all three discs reviewed here, the booklet supplies extensive essays (English and German) by Adriano – a dedicated and well informed conductor – who has invested much of himself in this project. The writing is edited by Ian Lace.

Guild GMCD7420 presents Brun’s late three-movement Cello Concerto. This has a streaming Brahmsian fluency mixed with just a tint of folk feeling. The similarities are with the Hamburg composer’s Second and Fourth symphonies and his two string instrument concertos. This concerto has the songful and the soulful apportioned between orchestra and solo with neither having a monopoly. Brun often favours lyrical rhapsody but there is a measure of drama in the finale. The completely engaged soloist, Claudius Herrmann, enjoys a moderately forwardly placement.

Speaking of stompingly, exuberantly coloured drama there’s plenty in Brun’s setting of Goethe’s Verheissung (“The Promised Land”) as well as gentler qualities. It’s very impressive and is reminiscent of Delius in A Mass of Life and, in its militant moments, of Havergal Brian’s Symphony No. 4. Here is a stirring, concentrated work that says much in less than ten minutes. The piece ends in a great ecstatic blaze. It’s just a pity that the words and translation have not been included in the booklet. I couldn’t find them on the Guild site either.

There’s more Goethe with Grenzen der Menschheit. This short piece, written seventeen years after Verheissung, is stirring, even aggressive, with a sense of colossal German magnificence about it but without ‘letting go’ in quite the way we experience with Verheissung.

Then come five Brun lieder sung by the admirably steady and emotive Bernadett Fodor. Adriano has taken the original piano part and redistributed it for string sextet. Lebensgenuss has operatic reach while the slightly more expressionistic accents of Die Entschlafenen are more emotionally disengaged. Abendständchen serenades the listener but steers clear of unremitting simplicity with autumnal tints. The final two songs are cool, thoughtful and, in the case of Es wehet kühl und leise, elusive.

The liner-note is very detailed – up to Toccata Classics standards. It’s good to be offered so much. The music is well played and sung. It should appeal to those already hooked on Brun but also to those who enjoy Schoeck and Marx.
Rob Barnett