Michail Jurowski

Emil Nikolaus von Reznicek: Chamisso-Variationen

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Emil Nikolaus von Reznicek's name used to live on through the overture to his opera Donna Diana; it used to faithfully show up on German-language light music programs and served as the theme song for the radio show Sgt. Preston of the Northwest Mounted Police. When that show went off the air in the early '50s, his name all but died.

When the digital age came, it brought a tiny Reznicek revival in the shape of a pair of mediocre recordings of a few orchestral works with Gordon Wright leading the Philharmonia Hungarica. These were all but ignored and quickly forgotten. When the millennium came, it brought another tiny Reznicek revival in the shape of a series of recordings on the Austrian CPO label, among them this disc with Michail Jurowski leading the WDR Sinfonie Orchester Köln. It contains three works: Eine Lustspiel-Ouvertüre (A Comedy Overture), Theme und Variationen nach dem Gedicht "Tragische Geschicte" von Adalbert von Chamisso (Theme and Variations after the Poem "Tragic Story" by Adalbert von Chamisso), and Symphonische Variations über Kol Nidrey (Symphonic Variations on Kol Nidre).

Each is granted a polished and professional performance by Jurowski and the Köln musicians, and each succeeds according to its worth, which, as it happens, is directly proportional to its length. Thus at nine minutes, the slapstick nonsequitors of Eine Lustspiel-Ouvertüre work better than the improbable juxtapositions and maladroit vocal conclusion of the almost 20-minute Chamisso Variations, which likewise work better than the endless extravagance and bottomless bombast of the almost 25-minute Kol Nidre Variations. As bonus tracks, CPO has appended a pair of 1922 recordings of Reznicek himself leading a drastically reduced orchestra in Eine Lustspiel-Ouvertüre and, naturally, the Donna Diana Overture. Despite the obviously antique sound and the necessary but unfortunate re-orchestrations -- an extremely energetic tuba, for example, stands in for the whole bass section -- these performances have more life than any subsequent recordings, and for anyone who wants to know how Reznicek sounds at his best, this is the place to start. CPO's digital sound is big, bold, and colorful.

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