New Release Features Richard Stöhr Firsts

Richard Stöhr was an important and influential musical figure in 1920s Vienna. He was first a student then a professor at the Conservatoire of the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde. It’s estimated that during this period his works were performed over 100 times each year.

Stöhr was friends and colleagues with Gustav Mahler, Erich Wolfgang Korngold, Felix Weingartner, and Bruno Walter (among others). But it didn’t last. When the Nazis took over Austria, Stöhr lost his post, and his music was banned. 

He was able to escape with his family to America in 1938. But the damage was done.  Stöhr never enjoyed the same level of professional esteem and audience popularity again. 

As early as 1905 Stöhr admitted he was not a modern composer. Throughout his career, his music remained tonal. Stohr was content building on the precepts of Mahler, Zemlinsky, and Schmidt.

Volume Two of Toccata Classics’ series presents two firsts by Stöhr. It includes the first of his Orchestral Suites and the first of his seven symphonies. Both date from around 1909. 

Both are beautifully crafted compositions. Stöhr was quite comfortable with classical forms, both past and present. The lively fugue in the first suite is but one example.

His Symphony No. 1 in C major is big, but not too big. The themes are broad and expansive. Stöhr was an effective orchestrator. His use of brass is particularly effective. But Stöhr’s scope wasn’t as wide as Mahler’s. This is a symphony that has something important to say, even if it doesn’t contemplate the meaning of life.

The Sinfonia Varsovia is in top form here. Under Ian Hobson’s direction, they’ve captured the Viennese character of Stöhr’s music. 

Stöhr may not have been a modern composer, but he was true to himself. These are works of great originality that can still speak to audiences today. At least, they spoke to me.   

Richard Stöhr: Orchestral Music, Volume Two
Suite No. 1 in C major for string orchestra, Op. 8
Symphony No. 1 in A minor, Op. 18
Sinfonia Varsovia; Ian Hobson, conductor
Toccata Classics TOCC 0472

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