Monday, March 01, 2010

Othmar Schoeck: Notturno

Copy at Case Memorial Library
"Though usually pegged as a conservative, the Swiss composer Othmar Schoeck (1886-1957) was, in fact, too original for his own good. In his finest songs, an 'accessible' late-Romantic lyricism exists uneasily alongside an emotional intensity that can be as painfully personal as the confessional poetry of Lowell and Berryman. Heinz Holliger, the eminent oboist, credits Schoeck with creating 'a whole new way of connecting words and music.' It can be a hard journey, but the baritone Christian Gerhaher and the strings of the Rosamunde Quartet may have finally built a sturdy bridge with their radiant new ECM recording of the 'Notturno' (1931-33), an expansive sequence of songs and instrumental interludes. After exploring the turbulent world of the poet Nikolaus Lenau, Schoeck concludes with a setting of a text by Gottfried Keller that glows with childlike innocence—though the music suggests a meeting of late Beethoven, Stravinsky, and American blues. It is one of the most astonishing moments in twentieth-century art" (Russell Platt, "Critic's Notebook," New Yorker, 1/11/10).


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