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Von Einem: Piano Concerto, Danton's Tod Suite, Etc. / Meister, Vienna Radio Symphony

Von Einem / Lifschitz / Rundfunk So Wien / Meister
Release Date: 03/30/2010 
Label:  Orfeo   Catalog #: 764091  
Composer:  Gottfried von Einem
Performer:  Konstantin Lifschitz
Conductor:  Cornelius Meister
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
In Stock: Usually ships in 24 hours.  

Notes and Editorial Reviews



VON EINEM Dantons Tod: Suite. Wandlungen. Piano Concerto 1. Nachtstück. Medusa Cornelius Meister, cond; Vienna RSO; 1 Konstantin Lifschitz (pn) ORFEO C 764 091 A (75:39)


Every composer, it is probably safe to say, seeks to establish an individual voice. The corollary truism is that every Read more composer, and most will readily admit it, is influenced by the music that drew him or her to the art in the first place. The balancing act between these two currents is the measure of the successful artist. For example, the music of Chopin, as we know it, would not have been possible without the precedence of Bach, Mozart, and Bellini, and yet finally, it is Chopin and Chopin alone. Chopin is a cruel example as a means to evaluate a contemporary composer, since he was such a singular genius, but his work is useful as a way to establish an endpoint on a spectrum, along with, let us say, Beethoven and Stravinsky.


The delightful and generally well-written music of Gottfried von Einem, who died in 1996 at the age of 78, does not quite meet the midpoint of that scale. The music often seems overwhelmed by influences—here is Strauss, there Stravinsky, now a bit of Ravel, is that Prokofiev I hear? And so on. But his conservative style seems to back him into this corner. He wrote all of the music on this CD in the 15 years after the end of the Second World War, when all around him the world was exploding with new ideas (sometimes literally). His formative years were, after all, at the heart of the Nazi era, and even though von Einem managed to hear American jazz on the radio, and took some lessons from “degenerate” composer Boris Blacher, he was steeped in a very retrograde atmosphere. I hasten to add that he was, personally, no Nazi, and helped many escape arrest, highly dangerous activity for which he narrowly avoided imprisonment and perhaps execution. He was declared to be “Righteous Among the Nations” by Israel’s Yad Vashem posthumously, in 2002.


Like such fellow musical conservatives as Samuel Barber, von Einem was a very successful composer despite the barbs of the avant-garde. His first big success after the war was his opera Dantons Tod (Death of Danton), which was premiered in 1949 in Baden-Baden to great acclaim. Here we have the orchestral suite, which shows off a broad dramatic range. The Piano Concerto, from 1955, is almost whimsical, and the most distinctive music on this disc. The interplay of the solo instrument and the orchestra has a chamber-music-like intimacy, as opposed to the more antagonistic relationship that occurs in Beethoven, and indeed, the fineness of the writing, combined with a disarming lack of bombast, makes this very charming concerto feel like an homage to Mozart. The Night Music has a gravity and oozing melancholy that will appeal to Mahler fans. Medusa is a 1957 ballet, here represented by a seven-movement suite. It is, like all of the music here, a pungent, expressive, and masterfully constructed score, but plagued by that sense of musical déjà-vu that I have already complained about.


Objectively speaking, von Einem is a solid mid 20th-century composer with much to offer. I have expressed my caveats; for some listeners they may be completely irrelevant. In any case, this is an extremely well-executed omnibus of his work, and a fine introduction to anyone interested in making the acquaintance of a beloved Austrian composer not nearly as well known in America.


FANFARE: Peter Burwasser
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Works on This Recording

1.
Wandlungen, Op. 21 by Gottfried von Einem
Conductor:  Cornelius Meister
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1956 
2.
Concerto for Piano, Op. 20 by Gottfried von Einem
Performer:  Konstantin Lifschitz (Piano)
Conductor:  Cornelius Meister
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
3.
Nachtstück, Op. 29 by Gottfried von Einem
Conductor:  Cornelius Meister
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1960 
4.
Medusa, Op. 24a by Gottfried von Einem
Conductor:  Cornelius Meister
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1957 
5.
Dantons Tod Suite by Gottfried von Einem
Conductor:  Cornelius Meister
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1949 

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