A sui generis Lieder composer

Swiss poet Conrad Ferdinand Meyer provided the quintessentially Romanic texts for the two-dozen plu poems set to music by fellow Swiss Othmar Schoeck in his Geheimnis und Gleichnis, for which I offer the English translation Secrets and Similarities.

Mentored by Max Reger and an avowed admirer of both Hugo Wolf and Ferruccio Busoni, Schoeck developed a vast compositional output primarily focused on vocal music. At first decidedly post-Romantic in sensibility, Schoeck’s music gradually abandoned obeisance to tonality without fully following the dictates of the Second Viennese School, ultimately developing a sui generis style much admired by enterprising recitalists.  

Sung to perfection by the rich-voiced mezzo-soprano Clara O’Brien and superbly partnered by pianist James Douglass in the Ablaze Records (ar-00063) release, the artists chose all 28 selections, some as brief as the 57-second- long In Harmesnächten, some as extended in duration as the 5-minute-long Reisephantasie.

Ranging in tone from the lyrical simplicity of the wedding song Hochzeitsleid to the dramatic sweep of the paean to the majesty of the ocean Der Gesang des Meeres the collection of Schoeck Lieder never overstays its welcome thanks to the composer’s compositional gifts, the perfect marriage of text to music, and the protean interpretive gifts or the artists.

The neatly packaged, clearly annotated and cleanly engineered recording is available from www.ablazerecords.net

Rafael de Acha     All About the Arts