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Emil Nikolaus con Reznicek: Symphonies 2 & 5 [CD]

E N von Reznicek , Frank Beermann , Berne Symphony Orchestra Audio CD
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Emil Nikolaus con Reznicek: Symphonies 2 & 5 + Reznicek - Symphony No. 1 ''Tragic''
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Product details

  • Orchestra: Berne Symphony Orchestra
  • Conductor: Frank Beermann
  • Composer: E N von Reznicek
  • Audio CD (31 Oct 2005)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Format: CD
  • Label: Cpo
  • ASIN: B000B6N60Y
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 17,870 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

1. Lustig, Aber Nicht Sehr Schnell
2. Rasch Und Leicht
3. Mit Abgeklarter Ruhe
4. Sher Lustig, Aber Nicht Zu Schnell
5. Polonaise
6. Csardas
7. Landler
8. Tarantella

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Two Symphonies by Reznicek 7 Nov 2005
By J Scott Morrison HALL OF FAME TOP 100 REVIEWER
This is the fourth issue I've encountered, from the cpo label, of music of Emil Nikolaus von Reznicek (1860-1945). I've reviewed the first three -- the opera 'Donna Diana', the tone poem 'Schlemihl' and its successor 'Der Sieger', and found them very worthwhile -- and have come to feel that Reznicek has been an unduly neglected composer of the late German Romantic school. This issue, presumably part of an ongoing series, is of the Second and Fifth Symphonies.
The Symphony No. 2 in B Flat, a chamber orchestra work subtitled 'Ironic,' was written in the 1910s. It illustrates Reznicek's tendency to make jokes with his music. ('Schlemihl' and 'Der Sieger,' for instance, gently satirized the self-promotion of Richard Strauss.) This short work -- 25 minutes -- is filled with 'Eulenspiegelei' (roughly, 'tomfoolery') and yet is satisfying as music qua music. The first movement is extremely chromatic, modulating through, by my count, eleven of the possible twelve major keys. Sometimes the modulations come so fast and furiously that one is left chuckling; this is Reznicek's 'Musikalischer Spass.' Yet, it manages at the same time to be an expert variant of the sonata-allegro form. The scherzo, which comes second, has a dryly pastoral tone; one can hear Reznicek oh-so-slightly making fun of early Romantic gestures. The trio of the scherzo sounds almost Mahlerian. The third movement, marked 'Mit abegeklärter Ruhe' ('With transparent serenity') is a lovely homage to the slow movements of Mahler, including the slightly bizarre and very Mahlerian use of a piccolo and violin duet.
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Amazon.com: 4.0 out of 5 stars  2 reviews
18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Two Reznicek Symphonies 7 Nov 2005
By J Scott Morrison - Published on Amazon.com
This is the fourth issue I've encountered, from the cpo label, of music of Emil Nikolaus von Reznicek (1860-1945). I've reviewed the first three -- the opera 'Donna Diana', the tone poem 'Schlemihl' and its successor 'Der Sieger', and found them very worthwhile -- and have come to feel that Reznicek has been an unduly neglected composer of the late German Romantic school. This issue, presumably part of an ongoing series, is of the Second and Fifth Symphonies.

The Symphony No. 2 in B Flat, a chamber orchestra work subtitled 'Ironic,' was written in the 1910s. It illustrates Reznicek's tendency to make jokes with his music. ('Schlemihl' and 'Der Sieger,' for instance, gently satirized the self-promotion of Richard Strauss.) This short work -- 25 minutes -- is filled with 'Eulenspiegelei' (roughly, 'tomfoolery') and yet is satisfying as music qua music. The first movement is extremely chromatic, modulating through, by my count, eleven of the possible twelve major keys. Sometimes the modulations come so fast and furiously that one is left chuckling; this is Reznicek's 'Musikalischer Spass.' Yet, it manages at the same time to be an expert variant of the sonata-allegro form. The scherzo, which comes second, has a dryly pastoral tone; one can hear Reznicek oh-so-slightly making fun of early Romantic gestures. The trio of the scherzo sounds almost Mahlerian. The third movement, marked 'Mit abegeklärter Ruhe' ('With transparent serenity') is a lovely homage to the slow movements of Mahler, including the slightly bizarre and very Mahlerian use of a piccolo and violin duet. The finale, a rondo, sounds Straussian with its side-slipping harmonies and almost verbatim 'Eulenspiegelei.'

Reznicek's last symphony, the No. 5, is subtitled 'Dance Symphony' and lest one think this means it is a light-hearted work, let me assure you that this is more Totentanz than tripping-the-light-fantastic. Indeed, some years after its première in 1924 (it was then called 'Four Symphonic Dances' but published two years later as Symphony No. 5, 'Dance Symphony') it was choreographed in expressionistic style reminiscent of German silent movies of the time; in Dresden the ballet was billed as 'The Marionettes of Death.' The four movements are Polonaise, Csárdas, Ländler and Tarantella. The characteristic rhythms of these four dances forms are retained, but the emotional content of the four movements are anything but merry. Not quite as chromatic as the earlier symphony, there is a preponderance of minor key harmonies. One imagines that Reznicek had a program in mind because all four movements are episodic, with frequent tempo and key changes suggesting a narrative subtext. The work abounds with memorable melodies -- although the use of a figure very similar to Fucik's 'Entrance of the Gladiators' (the familiar circus entrance march) is perhaps intentionally ironic. One also hears some echoes of Strauss again, especially that uprushing opening figure of 'Don Juan.' There are suitable Magyar-sounding phrases in the Csárdas; they are ironic or world-weary in a way that sounds a little like Prince Orlofsky in 'Fledermaus.' The Ländler is anything but happy peasant in tone; there is menace in it. The finale, Tarantella, is nothing short of a Dance of Death. One can hear bones rattling. This is a satisfying work, particularly if one accepts (as I do, as lovers of Mahler do) the juxtaposition of passages of transcendent beauty with those of bizarrerie.

The performances by the Bern Symphony are just a hair short of excellent. There are some passages of uncertain tuning (particularly in the winds) and some awkward transitions due I suspect to the leadership of conductor Frank Beermann, a conductor new to me. The sound is slightly clotted and in the Fifth Symphony particularly there is a tendency for the sound to be a bit bass-heavy. Still, we are not likely to get new recordings of these symphonies any time soon, and these certainly will suffice until we do.

I would not rank either of these symphonies as high in Reznicek's oeuvre as either 'Der Sieger' or 'Schlimihl' but they are worth hearing.

Scott Morrison
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Engaging 19 Oct 2011
By G.D. - Published on Amazon.com
CPO's series of music by Emil Nikolaus von Reznicek has been very welcome, though anyone coming fresh to the composer (apart from the Donna Diana overture) is recommended to start with the release containing his symphonic poem Der Sieger before anything else. Reznicek's style is the very epitome of fin-de-siècle late romanticism, reminiscent of the music of his friend Richard Strauss (even if things suggest the friendship may have been ambivalent) though Reznicek sometimes takes the overblown drama and pathos even further (but he rarely attempts to capture Strauss's classical elegance - the second symphony being a possible exception). Over and above the storming late-romanticism and a fascination with coloration, however, Reznicek adds an element generally absent from most music written in comparable styles: humor. Indeed, much of his music contains material parodying or satirically characterizing both the composer's own style and that of his contemporaries.

The second symphony is subtitled "Ironic", and may as such appear to be among the most representative of the composer's works. Well, the story is a little more complicated. It is surely a vivacious, spirited work, but the humor in this case seems, at least on first hearing, to amount to little more than a false sense of naļveté. It is scored for classical orchestra, and is finely scored, airy, brilliant and bright. The themes, however, are generally short-breathed and deliberately inconsequential, and the whole experience possibly more fun for fellow composers, musicians or musicologists than for a more casual listener - it is indeed deeper and more clever than it might first appear (it helps to listen to it as a commentary on Till Eulenspiegel), but it is not a work I can really be bothered to spend too much time with.

The fifth symphony, on the other, is a spectacle. The dances featured in this "Dance Symphony" are polonaise, czardas, ländler, and tarantella, but they are treated more as structural and rhythmical foundations for genuinely symphonic material - this is not light or inconsequential music, and even if it was intended as a ballet it is a real, convincing symphony. Not a masterpiece, perhaps, but a valuable addition to the catalogue nonetheless. The Bern Symphony Orchestra under Frank Beermann are pretty convincing here; brilliant, full-blooded, dramatic and spirited, but the performance of the second symphony appears to lack something in delicacy and gossamer lightness (it also strikes one as being on the slow side even though I have nothing to compare it with). The sound is good, and overall this is a very recommendable disc with plenty of excellent things, even if it does not quite come close to the levels of inspiration and mastery we get in Der Sieger.
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