Franz Schreker (1878–1934) and Ernst Toch (1887–1964), two of the most important and successful Austrian composers of their generations, ranked among the most prominent victims of National Socialist cultural policy after Hitler’s seizure power in 1933. The works which can be heard on this CD in world premiere recordings mark high points in dance history after the turn of the century and in the 1920s, respectively. Schreker’s Geburtstag der Infantin, written in 1908 on commission from the Klimtsche Kunstschau, is not only a key piece within the context of the secession movement in its new understanding of the Gesamtkunstwerk – it also marks the birth of expressive dance (Ausdruckstanz), as developed by the Wiesenthal sisters in their shedding of the rigid corset of classical ballet in Vienna. The success of Geburtstag der Infantin, which was hailed as an epochal event, confirmed not only Schreker’s position in the Viennese music scene, it also led to a libretto commission from Alexander von Zemlinsky, who wanted Wilde’s fin de siècle version of the beauty and the beast transferred into a modern “tragedy of the ugly man.” Schreker ended up composing it himself with Die Gezeichneten, which cemented his fame once and for all after the legendary debut of Der ferne Klang in Frankfurt am Main in 1912. The score of the original performance version of Geburtstag der Infantin, which was only rediscovered in the 1980s, underwent a reworking by Schreker for a production at the Berlin Staatsoper – in which several parts (such as the scene with the dwarf before the mirror) had been omitted. Ernst Toch’s Tanzsuite was premiered in Mannheim in 1923 – the same year as the revised version of Schreker’s Pantomime in Berlin. Paul Breisach, a student of Schreker’s, conducted the production by the choreographer Frieda Back. Her teacher Mary Wigman is the link in a fascinating trail which led back to Schreker and the Wiesenthals, since the impression that the Geburtstag der Infantin made on Wigman in 1908 in Vienna inspired her to become a dancer. This production not only promises exciting listening enjoyment, but also fascinating insight into the lines long which expressive dance developed over three generations from Jugendstil to expressionism and all the way to the era of Neue Sachlichkeit.
This production marked the beginning of eda record’s cooperation with the Berlin Kammersymphonie and its artistic director Jürgen Bruns, a cooperation encompassing recordings of works by Berthold Goldschmidt, Roberto Gerhard, and Kurt Weill, three composers forged in Berlin in the master-classes of Schoenberg, Schreker, and Busoni (eda 18), as well as the first volume of the “Poland Abroad” series, with works by Mieczysław Karłowicz, Alexandre Tansman, Jerzy Fitelberg, and Simon Laks (eda 26).
Ernst Toch: Tanz-Suite op. 30 (1923)