Reznicek Symphonic Suites Blend Old and New

Emil Nikolaus von Reznicek was primarily an opera composer. Two of the three suites in the release have their origins on the stage. Nevertheless, they show that Reznicek was quite comfortable writing for the concert hall.

The Karneval Suite “in an older style” was extracted from Reznicek’s two-act opera Gondoliere des Dogen. The drama’s set in the 17th Century, and the music uses Baroque dance forms. Stylistically, the suite reminded me strongly of Stravinsky’s “Pulcinella” and Respighi’s “Ancient Airs and Dances,” which also reinterpreted older music. And like those other two examples, Reznicek’s Karneval Suite succeeds admirably.

The 1916 Traumspiel Suite also comes from the theater. In this case, Reznicek recast incidental music written for a play. The style is post-Romantic, and we hear more of the composer’s true voice. Reznicek’s experience writing for opera comes through with this music. The movements clearly delineate the emotional content of the scenes they were written for.

According to the liner notes, Reznicek’s Symphonic Suite No. 1 is more of a symphony than a collection of short, stand-alone movements. I can hear that. This 1882 work was originally an examination piece submitted for Rezicek’s degree. His professors Carl Reinecke and Salomon Jadassohn passed him.

The three-movement work has the feel of a large-scale work. The melodic gestures are symphonic in scope. Each movement is fairly complex, with plenty of space for the themes to develop organically. And then there’s all that counterpoint in the finale. But compared to Reznicek’s named symphonies, it’s a modest work.

The Weimarer Staatskapelle directed by Stefan Solyom deliver solid performances of these works. The strings play with an impressive degree of precision. Overall the ensemble has a full, warm sound that makes these post-Romantic suites sound even richer. There’s a touch more hall ambiance in the recording than I’d like, but that’s a minor (and very personal) complaint.

Emil Nikolaus von Reznicek: Symphonic Suite No.1; Traumspiel-Suite; Karneval-Suite
Weimarer Staatskapelle; Stefan Solyom, conductor
CPO 555 056

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