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Krenek: Symphony No. 4; Concerto Grosso / Francis, NDR Radio Symphony Orchestra

Krenek / Ndrp / Alun
Release Date: 06/28/2011 
Label:  Cpo   Catalog #: 777210-2   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Ernst Krenek
Performer:  Nikolai SchneiderVolker WorlitzschDimitar Penkov
Conductor:  Alun Francis
Orchestra/Ensemble:  North German Radio Symphony Orchestra Hannover
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

The long, restless career of Austrian composer Ernst Krenek (1900–1991) saw him tap into many of his turbulent century’s musical currents, from post-Romanticism, expressionistic atonality and all-encompassing Mahlerian symphonism to Stravinskian neo-classicism, Weimar-era jazziness and twelve-tone/serial techniques. This release, which concludes CPO’s valiant run of Krenek’s five numbered symphonies (coproduced with North German Radio), pairs the Fourth Symphony of 1947 with the Concerto Grosso No. 2 of two decades earlier. The intense symphony, premiered at Carnegie Hall by Dimitri Mitropoulos, has an astringent, Berg–like lyricism and drama, with a beautifully fluid shadow of an Adagio framed by craggily tuneful outer movements. Typical Read more of its cycle, the NDR’s performance is marked by surety of focus, idiomatic dynamism and a recording of almost analytic clarity — all virtues, even if the sonic impact doesn’t quite equal the volcanic richness achieved by the Leipzig Gewandhaus disc of Krenek’s epic Second Symphony in Decca’s invaluable “Entartete Musik” series. The Concerto Grosso No. 2 is virtually a Second Viennese School take on Bach and pastiche-Baroque Stravinsky, the highlight being an Adagio of baleful exquisiteness — like a black mirror held up to the Serenata in the Russian’s Pulcinella.

— Bradley Bambarger, Listen Magazine [Fall, 2011]

Real enchantment is attained. Very impressive indeed.

Krenek is so much more than Jonny Spielt Auf. CPO have opened the door on the symphonies. Indeed they did so as long ago as 1993-95. Their CDs of the symphonies from the NDR Radiophilharmonie with Takao Ukigaya are: 999 359-2 (1 and 5); 999 255-2 (2); 999 236-2 (3).

The obvious lacuna was the Fourth Symphony. It's performing materials and score had gone missing and were thought lost until five years ago when the Krenek Institute found the score in America.

Somewhat along the lines of Frank Bridge his style chameleoned with the twists and turns of musical mores. He began, according to Philipp Weber's notes, in the embrace of his teacher Schreker and moved with every development until he largely ceased writing in 1989 two years short of his death.

Mitropoulos premiered the Fourth Symphony at Carnegie Hall in 1947 three months after completion. The first of the three movements is angry, volatile and explosive after a prefatory pastoral poem. The middle movement is dynamic, flightily dissonant and gently and nostalgically melancholy. Angular vituperation characterises the finale with exciting writing recalling William Schuman but more unforgivingly acidic and excoriating.

From the mid-1920s and premiered in Zurich under Volkmar Andreae comes the typically spiky, gum-booted Regerian and neo-classical Concerto Grosso op. 25 No. 2. It shivers with collegiate soloistic detail. The dissonance is not yet present just a shade of stinging vitriol. The second movement adagio and fourth movement andante have outgrown the determination and activity of the first movement and sing with an affecting almost Brahmsian sincerity through the solo instruments. The writing here is of the highest quality and is strikingly predictive of the melos of late Tippett.

These two works are, as with so many pieces of music, in debt to convention but the symphony has some magnificent moments especially at the start of the first movement. Of similar exalted quality are the slow movements of the Concerto Grosso in which real enchantment is attained. Very impressive indeed.

-- Rob Barnett , MusicWeb International
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Works on This Recording

Symphony no 4, Op. 113 by Ernst Krenek
Conductor:  Alun Francis
Orchestra/Ensemble:  North German Radio Symphony Orchestra Hannover
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1947; USA 
Length: 30 Minutes 26 Secs. 
Concerto Grosso, Op. 25 by Ernst Krenek
Performer:  Nikolai Schneider (Cello), Volker Worlitzsch (Violin), Dimitar Penkov (Viola)
Conductor:  Alun Francis
Orchestra/Ensemble:  North German Radio Symphony Orchestra Hannover
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1924; Germany 
Length: 26 Minutes 52 Secs. 

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