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Carl Schuricht Conducts Pfitzner , Strauss & Reger


Release Date: 08/01/2004 
Label:  Hänssler Classic   Catalog #: 93154   Spars Code: ADD 
Composer:  Hans PfitznerMax RegerRichard StraussE. Nikolaus von Reznicek
Performer:  Barry McDaniel
Conductor:  Carl Schuricht
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Mono 
Length: 1 Hours 13 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews



REZNI?EK Theme and Variations on a Poem by Adelbert von Chamisso. 1 R. STRAUSS Guntram: Act II Prelude. PFITZNER Das Käthchen von Heilbronn: Overture. REGER Variations and Fugue on a Theme by Mozart Carl Schuricht, cond; Barry McDaniel (bar); 1 Stuttgart RSO Read more HÄNSSLER CD 93154 (73:09)


Schuricht’s status as one of the great conductors of the 20th century may be debatable in other forums, but several Fanfare critics agree to it. Mortimer Frank has stated, “The [Schubert Symphony No. 8] is surely one of the finest performances of the period”; while Robert McColley, in turn, wrote, “Schuricht knowingly balanced the beauty of individual phrases with the overall design of the pieces he conducted, and secured lovely orchestral playing without producing a signature sound.” Jerry Dubins concurred, noting: “Even if he may have lacked some . . . charismatic character [of Furtwängler, Mengelberg, and Toscanini], his was unquestionably one of the keenest and most insightful of musical intellects.” In reviewing an earlier release from the Stuttgart RSO archives (Music & Arts 1094), I joined the chorus: “I have always found in Schuricht’s commercial recordings impressive gifts in pacing, balance, and orchestral nuance, but the level of fiery intensity in this collection of live performances brings to light a Schuricht I’d never heard before, and one I’d very much like to encounter again in the near future.”


So here’s my chance, and not just among The Greatest 19th-Century Hits of the German Romantic Repertoire, either. None of these works can be considered standard fare, though one occasionally appears in concert programs. Two of the others by my reckoning deserve a better fate than the complete neglect they’ve received.


Reger’s Variations and Fugue on a Theme by Mozart will be the closest thing on this album to a known entity for most listeners. It was once quite popular in the German conducting orbit, and occasional new recordings still appear. Karl Böhm, an advocate of the work (and responsible in 1938 for one of its best versions on disc) once said of it, “One cannot always drink that heavy Bordeaux; a clear Moselle of this sort is very nice for a change!” The piece wears both its heart and technique on its sleeve but is none the worse for doing so.


Strauss’s contribution is the overture to his first opera, Guntram . I’ve heard the entire work, frankly found it a bore, and consider this part of it superior only in that it is shorter. Guntram is heavily watered-down Wagner, with Strauss himself showing up in a couple of his less fortunate habits, such as precadential chromatic sideslipping. By way of contrast, Pfitzner’s overture derives from incidental music to Kleist’s Kätchen von Heilbronn . Its extroverted dramatics and lyricism are well-suited to a world of knightly pageantry and faithful damsels; and an audience that enjoys Strauss’s Don Juan or Till Eulenspiegels lustige Streiche could well make a favorite of the piece—if they ever got a chance to hear it.


We’ve undergone a spate of Rezni?ek releases recently, though this is the first recording yet to appear of his Theme and Variations on a Poem by Adelbert von Chamisso . By now, we know from other works that the composer’s musical personality included a strong vein of irony; so it should come as no surprise that this curious set of variations with baritone solo concerns a tragic-comic hero who tries vainly to confront his pigtail and remove it. The vocals appear towards the end of the piece. Before that, Rezni?ek engages in some acrid harmonies and “wrong note” themes, not unlike a German late-Romantic Shostakovich. (Yes, it’s quite an image, but also true.)


Judging from the sound, three of these performances (Strauss and Pfitzner in 1956, Rezni?ek in 1960) were caught on magnetic tape in a studio environment. They were kept in surprisingly good condition over the years, considering how easily neglected audiotape degenerates: pre-echo, post-echo, mildew, high frequency loss, a coating that flakes off, etc. All possess a mild degree of constriction and distort at high volume levels, but only the Reger, recorded live in 1950, shows signs of wear. The surface crackling gives away the fact that at least one generation from source to CD involved an acetate disc, though the recording doesn’t suffer in any other manner from comparison with the rest of the items.


The performances themselves bear all the hallmarks of Schuricht, with their energy, fluid but natural tempos, attention to sectional phrasing, and magisterial sense of balance. The 1956 pair appears to show the Stuttgart musicians undergoing a bad patch, with especially shaky brass; and there are moments in the Strauss when the first and second violins scramble, as well. For the rest, there is a lack of polish that might be expected on recordings meant for immediate broadcast rather than public release, but not as much as a second-string orchestra might reasonably offer under the circumstances. I suspect these musicians felt a strong commitment to providing their best for Schuricht, who remained with them for 16 years.


Both fans of late-German Romanticism and Schuricht will want to consider this release. The playing is uneven but the spirit is never unwilling, and the conductor at the helm was unsurpassed in this repertoire.


FANFARE: Barry Brenesal
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Works on This Recording

1. Das Käthchen von Heilbronn, Op. 17: Overture by Hans Pfitzner
Conductor:  Carl Schuricht
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1905; Germany 
Date of Recording: 1956 
Venue:  Studio 
2. Variations and Fugue on a theme of Mozart, Op. 132 by Max Reger
Conductor:  Carl Schuricht
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1914; Germany 
Date of Recording: 1950 
Venue:  Live  Concert 
3. Guntram, Op. 25: Act 2 Prelude by Richard Strauss
Conductor:  Carl Schuricht
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1893/1934; Germany 
Date of Recording: 1956 
Venue:  Studio 
4. Theme and Variations on a poem by Adelbert von Chamisso by E. Nikolaus von Reznicek
Performer:  Barry McDaniel (Baritone)
Conductor:  Carl Schuricht
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1921; Prague 
Date of Recording: 1960 
Venue:  Studio 

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