The idea: Goldschmidt, Weill, Gerhard – three exceptional students of three legendary composition teachers in Berlin’s “roaring twenties,” Schreker, Busoni, Schoenberg; works that (with the exception of Kurt Weill’s well-known, yet seldom performed 2nd Symphony) were long thought to be lost and are presented here for the first time in reference recordings; three composers who shared the same fate: persecution, political terror, racial fanaticism, and imposed exile. This second production in cooperation with the Berlin Chamber Symphony and its dedicated principal conductor and artistic director Jürgen Bruns (see also eda 13 and eda 26) exemplarily reflects the label’s sustained efforts to recover a buried repertoire of outstanding musical quality and toward insight into the partly intertwined and partly broken off lines of development in the musical history of the 20th century, a glimpse that extends beyond the issues of national traditions, aesthetic theories, and doctrines.
The break which political persecution and emigration caused in the biographies of the composers presented here manifested itself in very different ways. Kurt Weill, one of the most prominent targets of the Nazis, already emigrated in 1933 by way of Paris – where he completed his 2nd Symphony – and on to the USA, where he succeeded in launching a second, illustrious carrier as a composer on Broadway. Berthold Goldschmidt was awarded the Mendelssohn Prize (Germany’s most prestigious composition award) for his Passacaglia for Orchestra op. 4 in 1925, when he was just a 22-year-old student in Schreker’s Berlin composition class. The successful premiere of his opera Der gewaltige Hahnrei in Mannheim in 1932 cemented his position as one of the leading composers of his generation. But his emigration to England in 1935 spelled the end of his carrier as a composer for the next 50 years. Goldschmidt was one of a very few to experience a rehabilitation on the international music scene – and, despite his advanced age, even succeeded at exciting the music world with an impressive swan song. His Suite op. 5, written before the Passacaglia, exhibits astounding parallels to neoclassicism and the nonchalance of a Kurt Weill. Roberto Gerhard, Schoenberg’s student in Vienna and assistant in Berlin, is now considered to be in equal measure the most important Catalan and Spanish composer of his generation. As an official representative of Catalan cultural policy in the 1930s, he was blacklisted by Franco. He emigrated via France to England, from where he launched a second, international career as the leading representative of English avant-garde from the ’60s to his death. His long-lost Concertino for Strings, which was to serve Gerhard as the basis for his Violin Concerto in 1942-43, is a key piece in the composer’s development. Written toward the end of his studies with Schoenberg in Berlin in the late 1920s, the piece owes a bit to the Lyrical Suite by Gerhard’s close friend Alban Berg, in terms of its flowing and sensitive application of increasing chromatics and the subtle combination of elegiac and fantastic elements.
Robert Gerhard: Concertino for Strings op. 12 (1927/28)
Kurt Weill: Symphony no. 2 (1933)