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Orchestra Works 4

Release Date: 05/16/2011 
Label:  Thorofon   Catalog #: 2560  
Composer:  Harald Genzmer
Conductor:  Werner Andreas Albert
Orchestra/Ensemble:  German Radio Philharmonic OrchestraSaarbrücken Percussion Ensemble
Number of Discs: 1 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

GENZMER Symphony No. 5. Concerto for Orchestra No. 2. Dance Suite Werner Andreas Albert, cond; German RPO Saarbrücken Kaiserlautern THOROFON CTH 2560 (59:06)

Of all the post-Hindemith generation of German composers, the long-lived Harald Genzmer (1909–2007)—himself a Hindemith pupil—maintained for many years a viable delicate balance stylistically between the newer advanced idiom eventually adopted by his immediate contemporaries Gunter Bialas and Wolfgang Fortner and the still-surviving more Read more traditional kapellmeister tradition typified by Kart Hoeller and Kurt Hessenberg.

In this, the fourth volume of the vintage German label Thorofon’s ongoing documentation of Genzmer’s orchestral output (there is also a recent excellent two-CD traversal of his music for violin and piano), we encounter his last large-scale effort, the fifth of his numbered symphonies, together with important examples from the early (Dance Suite) and middle (Second Concerto for Orchestra) years of his nearly 75-year career.

In many ways this symphony of 1998, written in his 89th year, is typical in its solid neoclassical structure but not so typical in its markedly more subdued tone and low-key approach compared to previous symphonies, especially Nos. 2 through 4. In this work we sense a mellowing and an even greater refinement in Genzmer’s exploitation of the lingua franca of middle-European modernism. All of this expert craftsmanship is enlisted in his primary goal of reaching a wide-based audience of musically sophisticated listeners without compromising the harmonic and metric requirements of a genuinely 20th-century language attached to a strong instinctive feel for formal logic and narrative drive. Also characteristic is the integration of all four movements through a dominating motto-theme, a type of surgingly heroic fanfare, as well as the intermittent use of light percussive touches such as xylophone and marimba, especially in the typically brief and skittish Intermezzo just before the Finale.

The second of Genzmer’s concertos for orchestra, dated 1968, finds him at the peak of his very productive 60s, where the example of his teacher’s great Philharmonic Concerto , written almost 40 years earlier in 1932 for the Berlin Philharmonic, provided a masterly template. The Hindemith work is subtitled “Variations for Orchestra” and Genzmer makes this conception the heart of his own piece in the form of a long slow movement consisting of five sharply contrasted variations on an emblematic motif heard first in the relatively short and Moderato introduction. And once again characteristically in this work a frisky Vivace Burlesk leads pell-mell into an exuberant Allegro Finale.

Closing out this very enjoyable program is a rare example from Genzmer’s younger years, the 1939 Dance Suite. In this supple synthesis of the Baroque suite and concerto grosso forms, also incorporating some generically folkloristic themes, Genzmer is even more beholden to his teacher’s language, even though there are already intimations of how he would later forge a brighter, less cerebral postwar derivation of the Hindemith manner.

While one must always acknowledge that conductor Werner Andreas Albert has carved out an illustrious career on disc in a wide range of repertoire, this listener cannot help feeling that this music calls out for a stronger degree of robustness and intensity than he brings to these performances. But in any case we are grateful to have these first recordings and we wish to remind Thorofon that there are a number of powerful earlier works, such as the unnumbered “Bremen” Symphony and the Music for Large Orchestra , which are still awaiting recording.

Meanwhile, no fan of mainstream modernism in its most elevated form should pass on this disc.

FANFARE: Paul A. Snook
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Works on This Recording

Symphony no 5 by Harald Genzmer
Conductor:  Werner Andreas Albert
Orchestra/Ensemble:  German Radio Philharmonic Orchestra
Double Concerto for Orchestra by Harald Genzmer
Conductor:  Werner Andreas Albert
Orchestra/Ensemble:  German Radio Philharmonic Orchestra,  Saarbrücken Percussion Ensemble
Tanzerische Suite by Harald Genzmer
Conductor:  Werner Andreas Albert
Orchestra/Ensemble:  German Radio Philharmonic Orchestra

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