Franz Schreker: Kammersymphonie / Guggenheim  · UofT Symphony Orchestra
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Franz Schreker: Kammersymphonie / Guggenheim · UofT Symphony Orchestra

Franz Schreker - Kammersymphonie (Chamber Symphony in 1 Movement for 23 players) University of Toronto Lorenzo Guggenheim, conductor Walter Hall March 10, 2020 Peter Olsen, audio engineer Notes about the work from Christopher Hailey, Director of the Schreker Foundation: In a letter to Paul Bekker from 22 August 1918, Franz Schreker (1878-1934) wrote of his sometimes “desperate battles” with instrumentation. “One realizes that there should really be many more instruments. I don’t mean more within the categories we have, but new ones. I often hear sounds that can scarcely be realized with existing means.” Klang, or sound, was a central category of Schreker’s creative persona. His visions were timbral, his complex emotional insights captured in the iridescence of his orchestra. It is an orchestra made up not of individual instruments – ”nothing,” he once wrote, “is more disturbing to me than, for example, a celesta intruding as such – but a dematerialized array of ever-changing colors.” No work better captures this sonic ideal than his Chamber Symphony, written in 1916 in celebration of the centenary of the Vienna Academy and given its premiere there in March 1917. Its shimmering opening, in which first the flute, then the violins float above the aural mists of celesta, harmonium, piano and harp, is music of otherworldly magic. Schreker’s instrumentation refracts thematic ideas through the prism of his orchestra. Lines intertwine, motives move imperceptibly from one instrument to another, transforming a trumpet into a clarinet, wedding the harmonium with a bassoon. And just as thematic ideas give up something of their material autonomy to become immaterial color, formal articulation is blurred through Schreker’s love of mercurial shifts of mood, tempo, and rhythm. The four sections within this single-movement work – an introduction, main movement, adagio, and scherzo – frequently overlap and, with the exception of the scherzo, are all recalled at the end. By its title and formal aspirations, the Chamber Symphony appears to be one of Schreker’s very few works of “absolute” music, yet one cannot overhear the manifold thematic relationships with his opera Die Gezeichneten or with gestures (especially in the scherzo) related to his pre-war ballet and pantomime scores. More importantly, one finds in the Chamber Symphony motivic vestiges of Schreker’s unfinished opera of 1915, Die tönenden Sphären. That, significantly, is the story of a man who collects sounds. Schreker’s own reputation as an aural fantast and collector of sounds became a heavy burden in the 1920s. A younger generation that had once pored over his rich and complex scores now embraced music that was lean, angular, and dissonant. Both Hindemith and Weill, for instance, knew and performed Schreker’s music and had gone through their “Schreker phase”. But the sweet lures of late Romantic harmony and orchestral color were no match for the purifying flames of Expressionism. Ironically, these forces were transforming Schreker’s own style during the very same years. With his Expressionist opera, Irrelohe, written 1919-22 and given its premiere under Otto Klemperer in 1924, Schreker’s music likewise became leaner and more astringent. The world that had given rise to his Chamber Symphony had vanished and in its place new sounds awaited discovery. Christopher Hailey
Franz Schreker: Der Geburtstag der Infantin / Guggenheim · UofT Symphony Orchestra
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Franz Schreker: Der Geburtstag der Infantin / Guggenheim · UofT Symphony Orchestra

Franz Schreker - Der Geburtstag der Infantin, based on Oscar Wilde’s novella "The Birthday of the Infanta" inspired by Diego Velázquez' painting "Las Meninas". Suite for Chamber Orchestra Conducted by Lorenzo Guggenheim November 18, 2019 University of Toronto, Walter Hall i. Reigen (Round Dance) ii. Aufzug und Kampfspiel (Pageant and Combat) & Der Stierkampf (The Bullfight) iii. Die Marionetten (The Marionettes) iv. Minuett der Tänzerknaben (Minuet of the Dancing Boys) v. Die Tänze des Zwerges (The Dances of the Dwarf) vi. Mit der Wind im Fruhling (With the Wind in the Springtime) vii. In blauen Sandalen über das korn (In Blue Sandals Over the Rye) viii. Im roten Gewand im Herbst (In a Red Gown in Autumn) ix. Die Rose der Infatin (The Rose of the Infanta) x. Nachklang “Reminiscence” Violin I: Jamie Godber, concertmaster, Justin Azerrad-Kendall, Hannah Corbett, Diana Dawydchak, Amelia McNiven Fontani, Jess Ng, Jisu Woo Violin II: Felipe Luzuriaga, principal, Thea Coburn, Juliana Hentosz, Heather Huynh, Isaac Poon, Adelaide Sanchez Viola: Madeleine Kay, principal, Emelia Findlay, Vena Lin, Cameron Ting Cello: Christopher Chan, principal, Maxwell Darlington, Janise Tin Wing Ku, Tsz Pan Gretchen Lee Double Bass: Shaun Rogers, principal, Hannah Godfrey-Clarke Flute: Ricci Ebron, Karen Chiang (piccolo) Oboe: Ciara Wheeler, Luca Ortolani Clarinet: Marco De Conno, Mark Kim Bassoon: Douglas Fleming, Michael Quigley Trumpet: Charlotte McIntosh, Ben Yoon Horn: Dia Tam, Noah Hawryluck Timpani: Jacob Valcheff, Meilin Wei Percussion: Meilin Wei, Samuel Kerr, Alland Gordon Fry IV Harp: Christina Kant Peter Olsen, sound engineer Program Notes by Christopher Hailey: Der Geburtstag der Infantin, based on Oscar Wilde’s novella The Birthday of the Infanta, had its premiere on 27 June 1908 as part of the now legendary ‘Kunstschau’ organized by the circle of artists around Gustav Klimt. Eduard Josef Wimmer designed the sets and costumes in the style of Velasquez; Elsa Wiesenthal danced the role of the infanta, her sister Grete that of the dwarf. These two former apprentice ballerinas of the Vienna Court Opera had recently created a stir in cultural circles with their appearances in Vienna (Kabarett Fledermaus), Berlin, St. Petersburg, and Budapest. Hugo von Hofmannsthal, Peter Altenberg, Gustav Klimt, Max Reinhardt, and Alfred Roller were among their admirers and champions who recognized in the weightless grace of their dances a living embodiment of the free, unencumbered spirit of Viennese ‘Jugendstil’. To that date the Wiesenthals’ most popular creations had been dances to the music of Schubert, Beethoven, Lanner, and Johann Strauß, jr., but the music for the pantomime was newly commissioned and its composer was Franz Schreker. For Schreker Der Geburtstag der Infantin was a breakthrough. After early successes following his graduation from the Vienna Conservatory in 1900 the composer had made his way as a private teacher. In 1907 he had joined the Volksoper as a choral conductor and later that year assumed directorship of the newly founded philharmonic Chorus. For years he had been working on a still unfinished opera, Der ferne Klang, but encouragement was scarce and performances of his works were rare. In looking back a decade later Schreker described his pantomime score as the turning point : ‘A sister art – painting – came to the rescue. For the opening of the Klimt “Kunstschau” I was commissioned to write a pantomime on Wilde’s Birthday of the Infanta. I composed it in ten days’. It was an exhilarating ten days to judge from an evocative description of Schreker’s state left by Rudolf Huber-Wiesenthal, Elsa Wiesenthal’s husband: ‘He threw himself into his work with absolute abandon, like a man possessed; whether on the tram or jostling among thecrowds in the street melodies welled up within him. With increasing frequency he came out to see the Wiesenthals to play what he had just finished. And if it was an enthusiastic and appreciative response he needed, he always found it because for the sisters there was no doubt that here, taking shape before their eyes, was the work of an extraordinary talent. They felt the broad sweep, the temperament in these sounds; it was everything they could have wished for as a vehicle for their art. Bursting with musical ideas, flowing with lively, dancing rhythms, it provided their mute gestures with an incomparable wealth of diverse and original themes.’ Continued here: http://schreker.org/neu/engl/works/prefaces/UE31426_Vorwort%20(Der%20Geburtsag%20der%20Infantin).pdf