Max Deutsch / Frank Strobel / Rheinland-Pfalz Staatsphilharmonie

Max Deutsch: Der Schatz

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Max Deutsch was an Austrian-born French composer, conductor, and later a professor of composition; he was one of Arnold Schoenberg's European students and a friend of Ferruccio Busoni. Deutsch's "film symphony" Der Schatz (The Treasure) was the result of a commission from prominent German film director Georg Wilhelm Pabst to create an original musical score for his 1923 film of that title. Der Schatz was designed to serve both as a film score and as stand-alone, symphonic work. It is in the latter form that Der Schatz has survived -- not long before his death in 1982 the aged composer donated the manuscript to the Deutsches Filminstituit. Two decades on, DeutschlandRadio Berlin was able to support the recording of this extremely rare and totally unknown symphonic work in this performance by the Staatsphilarmonie Rheinland-Pfalz under conductor Frank Strobel, now issued on CPO as Max Deutsch: Der Schatz. In keeping with Deutsch's bilateral concept, this recording also serves as the basis for a synchronized restoration of Pabst's film.

Der Schatz is divided in to five very long "acts" that sound similar; the piece is scored for a theater orchestra of the kind typically found in European cinemas of the day and a lot of the music is in the piano part. It is couched in a tart, but not atonal, expressionist idiom that is reminiscent of Kurt Weill's early music, and periodically there are short passages that resemble twelve-tone-styled progressions. Deutsch goes beyond the expected requirements in silent film scoring for mood setting and atmosphere in that he provides leitmotivs for each character in the story, although if one is not watching the movie this aspect of Deutsch's score is harder to get a grip on. The performance by the Staatsphilarmonie Rheinland-Pfalz is adequate without being particularly great, and the music itself is more interesting than outwardly enjoyable. However, Deutsch's approach to film scoring is not unlike what Max Steiner would employ in his own modernist-styled film scores of a decade or more later, and authentic film music of the silent era is in general extremely hard to come by. If one likes Kurt Weill or Stefan Wolpe's early music, or is interested in European film music in general, this is certainly recommendable. Nonetheless, once it is heard, CPO's Max Deutsch: Der Schatz might not inspire the listener to return very many times.

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