Berthold Goldschmidt

Berthold Goldschmidt: Comedy of Errors Overture; Beatrice Cenci; Haydn: Symphony No. 96

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Berthold Goldschmidt: Comedy of Errors Overture; Beatrice Cenci; Haydn: Symphony No. 96 Review

by Uncle Dave Lewis

Composer Berthold Goldschmidt's career was sidelined by the rise of National Socialism in Germany; retreating to England, he was able to establish himself as a conductor of note, but it wasn't until he was in his eighties that Goldschmidt was able to revive interest in his work as a composer. That wasn't for lack of trying, and Symposium's Berthold Goldschmidt collects the recorded remnants of Goldschmidt's mid-century attempts to bring his original conceptions to public notice over the BBC, taken from tapes, and possibly some discs, Goldschmidt made off air. The recording quality is good considering the sources, especially in the clipped, dry, and relentlessly factual commentary of the BBC announcers; however, the music is constricted, a little distorted, and bright. Some lengthy excerpts from the abbreviated premiere of Goldschmidt's 1953 opera Beatrice Cenci are the main highlight here; a 1955 account of his ubiquitous Overture to the Comedy of Errors is also included, along with a professional, old-fashioned, and rather stodgy-by-modern-standards rendering of Haydn's "Miracle" Symphony from 1956.

Goldschmidt did not make commercial recordings, and it is easy to recognize the value of these, particularly that of Beatrice Cenci, a major twentieth-century opera that didn't get a modern recording until 1995. It's a dark, dramatic work that could have been written by Alban Berg if it weren't quite so straightforward, but even in 1953 it was still a little too tough for most audiences. It is remarkable, too, that the libretto was crafted by Theater of the Absurd book author Martin Esslin, working from Percy Shelley's play The Cenci. Nevertheless, while this broadcast is a key audio document of the modern theater, its audience is going to be extremely limited; the constrained sound and bright top end on the voices make it a difficult go even for expert listeners; reading the notes by Lewis Foreman is almost more entertaining than listening to the recording. These include some discussion of other surviving Goldschmidt tapes from the 1950s and '60s, many of which do sound interesting and invite some form of distribution. Obviously, any concerted effort to release his recorded legacy would start with his own work, as it is as a composer that Goldschmidt, in the end, made his mark. Those interested in Beatrice Cenci, though, should really seek out the modern recording, difficult as it is to find. This Symposium disc is super specialized and, as such, is only for scholars and listeners who are really crazy about Berthold Goldschmidt.

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