Ernst Toch: Complete Symphonies

Ernst Toch: Complete Symphonies

by Alun Francis


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Ernst Toch: Complete Symphonies

Ernst Toch was one of the top modern composers in Berlin until Hitler came to power, prompting his ultimate escape to the United States and Los Angeles, where he spent the last 30 years of his life. Prepossessed by the modernist "wisdom" that the symphony was dead, Toch avoided writing anything in the symphonic genre until a health crisis in the late '40s forced him to rethink his goals. In the last 14 years of his life, Toch produced seven full-length symphonies, of which the "Symphony No. 3" garnered the Pulitzer Prize. Until the CPO series instituted by conductor Alun Francis with the Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin in 1995, only the "Symphony No. 3" had garnered a recording, that for Capitol by Leopold Stokowski and the Stokowski Symphony Orchestra. Between 1995 and 2002, Francis patiently parceled out three individual discs containing the entire cycle, combined in CPO's three-disc set Ernst Toch: Complete Symphonies. Ernst Toch's cycle of seven symphonies are among the most compelling, original, and accomplished symphonic legacies left by any twentieth century composer. Stylistically, his music falls somewhere between that of Richard Strauss and Hindemith except that he is decidedly not a romantic and his music is neither as harsh nor satirical as that of Hindemith. The music moves seamlessly from one movement to the next developed as a continuous thread of argument, and in some cases it appears that one symphony might pick up where another left off, especially in the last three symphonies, written in a space of only 14 months. Although recorded over a period of seven years, Francis does his best to retain a consistent sound and approach through all of them, and it works. Francis also takes the spoken narration in "Symphony No. 4," an element of that work that Antal Dorati refused to deliver when he conducted its premiere in 1957. Already, Toch was hoping to break down the fourth wall between auditor and performer in this pioneering work, dedicated to the memory of Edward MacDowell's widow. This set is recommended strongly to devotees of Mahler and Shostakovich; whereas individual symphonies by certain, so-regarded "second rank" composers (such as the masterful "Symphony No. 6" of Karl Amadeus Hartmann) occasionally reach the exalted level of these exalted symphonists, Toch's symphonies all belong in their class and should be better known. Ernst Toch: Complete Symphonies is the cheapest and most efficient way to get there, and Francis' performances are clear, strong, and unaffected, conceived with an aim to show off Toch's music for what it is.

Product Details

Release Date: 04/18/2006
Label: Cpo Records
UPC: 0761203719129
catalogNumber: 777191
Rank: 88811


  1. Symphony No. 1, Op. 72
  2. Symphony No. 4 for speaker & orchestra, Op. 80
  3. Symphony No. 2, Op.73
  4. Symphony No. 3
  5. Jephta, rhapsodic poem for orchestra, Op 89 ("Symphony 5")
  6. Symphony No. 6, Op 93
  7. Symphony No. 7, Op 95

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