The Symphony in D minor, subtitled “Schmiedt Schmerz” (or, “Sorrow the Blacksmith”) is a very typical, and very good example of traditional German Sturm und Drang in three well-wrought movements. Its thematic material is top quality, and happily Grainer does not equate the usual German enthusiasm for symphonic misery with dullness. The Adagio features a climax of Brucknerian grandeur without inflicting on us Brucknerian length (it lasts only six minutes). You can sample the coda of the tumultuous first movement below.
Aus dem Reiche des Pan (“From Pan’s Kingdom”) is a brief, four movement suite full of luscious tunes and glittering orchestration. Although clearly from the same era asRead more the music of Strauss, Korngold, and Zemlinsky, the music reveals none of their decadence. Harmonically, Graener was a conservative and so he remained throughout his career–one of the qualities that endeared him to the Nazis. He wasn’t a very good Nazi though: a British citizen despite his return to Germany, he also had too many Jewish friends ever to impress them with his Aryan purity, try though he might.
The performances here under Werner Andreas Albert are stunning. He and the Hanover orchestra tear into the music with overwhelming power and bravura, and they are magnificently recorded. This disc is even better than the initial release in CPO’s ongoing series, and if you collect music of this style and period, I can’t recommend it highly enough.
Outstanding in Every RespectDecember 22, 2016By Henry S. (Springfield, VA)See All My Reviews"Here is a real eye-opener for those interested in exploring out of the mainstream 20th century music which is tonal, dramatic, and (above all) of remarkably high artistic merit. German by birth, Paul Graener became a British citizen before moving to Austria and eventually back to Germany to serve under the Nazi regime in an official artistic capacity. The last work on this CPO recording, entitled 'Prince Eugen, der edle Ritter Variations,' was a work written for a Nazi-sponsored music festival in the late 1930's. Based on a German folk song, it has plenty of robust, even martial, character that one senses could easily have passed muster with the Third Reich's demand for 'acceptable' music of pure German character. At this point, I'd like to assert that whatever connection this work and the composer himself may have had with the Nazi system can be completely disregarded when listening to this music. As a matter of fact, the CD notes tell us that Graener eventually fell out of favor with the authorities over close ties to Jewish friends and (possibly) his British citizenship while serving the Nazi state. Bottom line- this work can be (and should be) listened to and enjoyed without reference to its historical context. The middle work is in a lighter vein, 'From Pan's Realm,' a four movement suite with a programmatic character that displays what strikes the listener as Graener's use of impressionistic writing somewhat akin to the style made famous by Debussy and others. To this reviewer, the crown jewel of this recording is Graener's Symphony in D Minor, subtitled 'Schmied Schmerz' (Sorrow the Blacksmith'), which is the opening work on the disk. This is a powerful, even tragic 3 movement symphony dating from 1911-1912, when Graener was associated with the Mozarteum Orchestra and music academy in Salzburg, Austria. The symphony starts out bleakly and sparsely, but builds progressively to a sophisticated and passionate plateau before a wistful, somewhat melancholy conclusion. The roots of this very impressive composition may lie in Graener's emotional reaction to the death of his son, with the symphony's title clearly suggesting the psychological blows (like a blacksmith's hammer) which personal tragedy can deliver. German conductor Werner Andreas Albert leads the wonderful NDR Radiophilharmonie of Hannover in an exciting performance of these 3 fine works. I thought the orchestra's sound was full-bodied, sharp, and crystal clear throughout the entire program. So in summary, while I am in general agreement with W. Murphy's earlier comments on the historical placement of Graener's music, I seem to have a much higher opinion of its aesthetic quality. This is certainly high quality music from a composer who deserves more recognition these days, even if the golden days of pre-WW1 classical music are now just a distant memory. Very strongly recommended."Report Abuse
Twilight of a great traditionJuly 3, 2014By W. Murphy (Sacramento, CA)See All My Reviews"Sophisticated and attractive orchestrations -- Brucknerian? Richard Straussian? -- support melodies and harmonies that could have been more distinctive and adventurous. Symphony, completed in 1911, is in the late Romantic melodramatic tradition, soon to be made obsolete by the too-real storm and stress of World War One. The late Prinz Eugen Variations (1939) are more modulated and fluent (though Nazi-approved). Performance and recording maintain Cpo's high level."Report Abuse