09 Schreker BirthdayFranz Schreker – The Birthday of the Infanta Suite
Berlin RSO; JoAnn Falletta
Naxos 8.573821 (naxosdirect.com/items/schreker-the-birthday-of-the-infanta-suite-prelude-to-a-drama-romantic-suite-466991)

Almost forgotten after the Nazis banned them in the 1930s, Franz Schreker’s feverish, hyper-romantic-expressionist operas have, in recent years, received welcome new stage productions and recordings. For anyone unfamiliar with Schreker’s gripping sound-world, there’s no better introduction than the first work on this CD, Prelude to a Drama, Schreker’s 18-minute elaboration of the Prelude to Die Gezeichneten (1914), incorporating themes from his operatic masterpiece. JoAnn Falletta, known locally as music director of the Buffalo Philharmonic, leads the Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra in a radiant performance of this gorgeous, numinous music.

The other works on this disc, from Schreker’s earlier years, present him in more genial moods. His 1908 score for The Birthday of the Infanta, a ballet-pantomime after Oscar Wilde’s fairy tale, was his first major success as a composer for the theatre. It obviously remained close to his heart, as he conducted the Berlin State Opera Orchestra in two recordings – an acoustic (1923) and a better-sounding electrical (1927) – of the Suite he arranged from his first hit. Falletta clearly delights in the scintillating sonorities and touches of sentiment in the ten-movement, 20-minute Suite.

Similarly, the 25-minute Romantic Suite (1903) by the then 25-year-old Schreker bathes in warm lyricism throughout its four movements, a symphony in all but its name.

Adding considerably to this CD’s appeal is the brilliant recorded sound and equally brilliant playing of the orchestra under maestra Falletta. Brava!     

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