The Schoenberg (the composer’s 1943 adaptation for string orchestra of the sextet original) is given a gripping outing, quite fleet (a minute shy of half-an-hour; more-expansive versions are available) and within which images, emotions and incidents are to the fore; reconciliation too. This is a fine and febrile reading, as sensitive as it is impassioned as it is richly expressive.
Another Verklärte Nacht comes from Oskar Fried (1871-1941, born in Berlin and died in Moscow) – best-remembered as a conductor: his discography includes symphonic Beethoven, Berlioz, Brahms and Tchaikovsky, and he was also a champion of Mahler’s music. Fried’s Opus 9 setting of Richard Dehmel’s prose (Schoenberg’s take is non-vocal) features mezzo-soprano and tenor and is a glorious find, so rapturous and romantic, and which reaches an ecstatic Elgar-like climax.
This release’s surprise is Fieber (Fever, 1915) by Franz Lehár, a “tone poem for tenor and large orchestra”, an Expressionist and restless/delirious setting that widens our appreciation of this composer’s range (more Gurrelieder and Des Knaben Wunderhorn than his own Merry Widow or the Gold and Silver waltz, and there are a few borrowed bars of Berlioz, too). Stuart Skelton is in excellent voice, as he is for Erich Wolfgang Korngold’s Lieder des Abschieds (Songs of Farewell, completed in 1921), melodic and heartfelt gems.
The booklet includes texts and translations, and Ralph Couzens’s excellent sound (March last year at Fairfield Halls, Croydon) complements Brian Pidgeon’s production values (see below). Chandos CHSA 5243 [SACD].