- Harpsichord Concerto, Op. 14
- Incidental music for Ludwig Tieck's "Ritter Blaubart", for orchestra
Hugo Distler: Schauspielmusik zu Ritter Blaubart; Concerto für Cembalo und Streicherby Huguette Dreyfus
Now here is a truly odd -- pardon the pun -- hybrid; a Musicaphon SACD that marries an analog 1964 recording of Hugo Distler's "Harpsichord Concerto" (1934-1935) with a 2002 recording of Distler's "Schauspielmusik zu Ritter Blaubart von Ludwig Tieck" (1940). The former work is a monument in Distler's output in the neo-Baroque style he espoused, with an interest shared to some extent by German colleagues, but none so devoted to such ideals as he, and no one paying so high a price. Recorded by Huguette Dreyfus and the Deutsche Barocksolisten under Martin Stephani, this was the first one made of the concerto, and only one other version has followed, made in 1998 by Martin Haselböck for Thorofon. The "Schauspielmusik" is completely unknown, as only the three vocal numbers for this score existed before 1999 and remained unpublished. While Distler's complete score for Tieck's play is lost, enough of the music has been located since 1999 to raise a selection of nearly 30 minutes, performed here by Stefan Malzew, the Neubrandenburger Philharmonie, and singers Katharina Wingen and Stefan Livland. Therefore, in a sense these both can claim to be recording premieres. While Distler's music is great -- challenging and visionary, with a much more stringent harmonic vocabulary than is common to his sacred music -- and Dreyfus' interpretation of the harpsichord part in the concerto, when audible, is great, neither of these recordings sounds so hot on this SACD. Both are very bright and recorded in overly resonant spaces, and the top end is quite shrill. One can excuse that in the Dreyfus recording, as analog West German recordings of the 1950s and '60s inherently have that quality, even ones made by Deutsche Grammophon; East German recordings are similar, only worse. However, the 2002 recording doesn't sound significantly better, except that it has more bass response. At the ends of tracks 11 and 12 there are rounds of weak applause, and yet there is no mention in the copious notes for the CD that this is from a live performance. The cavernous ambience of the Konzertkirche Neubrandenburg is completely unflattering to the singers, accompanied by harpsichord only, and they don't exactly sound like they love what Distler has written for them, which is satirical and tongue in cheek, in keeping with Tieck's play. The three sung numbers can easily be dropped out of this score in favor of a nifty orchestral suite, something we do not otherwise have from Distler. However, there are things Distler's adherents simply must hear in the Blaubart "Schauspielmusik"; the overture to the second act sounds just like 1960s European orchestral pop, whereas the "Tanzfinale" has a nervous, clattering harpsichord-driven texture that sounds like some of Carmine Coppola's music to the film Dementia 13 (1963). It really makes you wonder where Distler might have gone had he survived, particularly concerning secular music. This is unquestionably great music, and somebody desperately needs to record it again. This will not do for now, as Musicaphon seems to have dropped the ball here; the label was able to afford to issue this on SACD, but was unable to raise the capital to get a really high-quality recording on the disc, which is a terrible pity for those who appreciate Hugo Distler.
- Release Date:
Performance CreditsHuguette Dreyfus Primary Artist
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