Marschner: Music for the Stage

Czech Chamber Philharmonic Orchestra Pardubice, Dario Salvi

Heinrich Marschner was one of the most prolific writers for the stage of his time. Musically, he occupies a niche between Weber and Wagner, writing firmly in the romantic tradition defined by the former. After Weber kick-started the gothic romance operatic movement with Der Freischütz, Marschner soon found his calling with such works as his celebrated operas Der Vampyr (based on Dr. John Polidori’s novel) and Hans Heiling. Both have been staged recently and the much hyped staging of Der Vampyr, whilst a pleasing revival, left very little to celebrate thanks to its trashy Regietheater production. The works on this disc, however, do not stem from the composer’s extensive operatic output, but from his incidental music for plays and schauspiel works. Conductor Dario Salvi returns after his Auber series, with the Czech Chamber Philharmonic Orchestra Pardubice with this generous programme of music (at over 70 minutes), which aims to shed some light on a lesser known area of the composer’s output (though the composer himself has long since fallen from the popular repertoire). It provides something of an antidote to the aforementioned Vampyr performance, as Salvi puts considerable effort into capturing some of the idiomatic features of the composer’s score in an attempt to approximate some of what audiences might have heard at the time the music was first performed.

We are treated to a couple of excellent overtures on the CD, the first of which Der Kyffhäuser Berg is the instantly appealing curtain-raiser to the disc. Whilst aurally arresting, however, it soon begins run out of steam and the initial promise of this overture becomes buried under obsessive sequencing of the same falling scale theme. This, unfortunately, becomes the pattern for much of the programme here: superb sections and often excellent ideas that are spoiled by the compositional execution. Some of the sections in the incidental music are simply not very good, such as the trundling Marsch der Krieger und Mädchen from Schön Ella, but others, such as the charming ballet in Ali Baba, whilst hardly memorable, are considerably more inspired.

Overall it is a CD of fairly slight music (good in terms of the ideas and orchestration, but average in terms of overall result) despite being by a supremely skilled composer. Dario Salvi and the Czech Chamber Philharmonic Orchestra Pardubice are ideal performers of the music, with their particular blend of stylistic flair and historical musical insight. The performance is well balanced throughout and boasts some real effort on the part of the performance to create as varied a sound as possible, resulting in an engaging and arresting performance. DA

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