OP2851. Der Schatzgräber (Schreker), Live Performance, 1989, Hamburg, w.Gerd Albrecht Cond. Hamburg State Opera Ensemble; Josef Protschka, Gabriele Schnaut, Harald Stamm, Peter Haage, etc. (Germany) 2-Capriccio 60010, Slipcase Edition w.90pp. Libretto-Brochure. Brilliant sound! Excellent, ever-so-slightly used copy. Long out-of-print, final copy!
“The Austrian composer Franz Schreker made quite an impression on Germany, especially with his chief work DER SCHATZGRÄBER (The Treasure Digger) (1915 - 1918), which highlighted his strengths as the most significant musical-dramatist after Wagner. When he composed the opera's prologue, four acts, and epilogue, as a musical-dramatist would, he also drafted his own libretto. In this piece, he worked with remarkable craftsmanship, creating music that was melodically sensuous and harmonically individual, using a rich musical language that synthesized expressionism with symbolism and melodramatically combined elements of naturalism and mysticism. He utilized the rhythm of spoken language, wrote limber arioso lines, and created an exotic sensation within orchestration. Although most of his operas contain complex decorative rhythmic motifs within a beat, the leitmotif system in this work is considerable less prominent than those found in his other compositions. Instead, the emphasis in DER SCHATZGRÄBER shows a tendency toward more triadic harmony, with much parallelism, and a slightly less complicated texture. Set in the fairy-tale ‘Middle Ages’, the plot of this opera tells of stolen treasures, separated lovers, murder and accusation, and closes with reference to a mystical palace of dreams where the main characters can be reunited among the greatest of treasures. It was premiered in Frankfurt on 21 January, 1920; in 1923, the composer's wife, Maria Schreker, with her delicately lyrical voice, began her career as an operatic soprano when she was cast as Els, one of the lead roles.
The success of DER SCHATZGRÄBER along with DIE GEZEICHNETEN (1913 - 1935), made the composer a celebrity, and he then was offered the prestigious post of director of the Hochschule fur Musik in Berlin. There, he presided over an outstanding teaching staff, which included Hindemith, until 1931 when he was pressured by the Nazis to ‘resign’. Since his death in 1934, his reputation in Central Europe has been based on the texts he wrote for eight of his operas; the most popularly recorded have been those of his early and middle periods, and include DER SCHATZGRÄBER.”
- Meredith Gailey, allmusic.com
“Schreker was born in Monaco, the eldest son of the Bohemian Jewish court photographer Ignaz Schrecker and his wife Eleonore von Clossmann, who was a member of the Catholic aristocracy of Styria. Schreker entered the Vienna Conservatory, starting with violin studies with Sigismund Bachrich and Arnold Rosé, then he moved into the composition class of Robert Fuchs, graduating as a composer in 1900.
Schreker had begun conducting in 1895, when he had founded the Verein der Musikfreunde Döbling. In 1907 he formed the Vienna Philharmonic Chorus, which he conducted until 1920: among its many premičres were Zemlinsky's ‘Psalm XXII’ and Schönberg's FRIEDE AUF ERDEN and GURRE-LIEDER.
November 1909 saw the stormy premiere of the complex orchestral interlude (entitled ‘Nachtstück’) from DER FERNE KLANG, the opera he had been working on since 1903. In 1912, the first performance of the complete opera in Frankfurt consolidated his fame. His next opera, DAS SPIELWERK UND DIE PRINZESSIN, which was given simultaneous premičres in Frankfurt and Vienna (15 March, 1913) was less well received (the work was subsequently revised as a one-act 'Mysterium' entitled simply DAS SPIELWERK IN 1915), but the scandal caused by this opera in Vienna only served to make Schreker's name more widely known.
The outbreak of World War I interrupted the composer's success but with the premičre of his opera DIE GEZEICHNETEN (Frankfurt, 25 April, 1918) Schreker moved to the front ranks of contemporary opera composers. The first performance of DER SCHATZGRÄBER (Frankfurt, 21 January, 1920) was the high point of his career. The Chamber Symphony, composed between the two operas for the faculty of the Vienna Academy in 1916, quickly entered the repertoire and remains Schreker's most frequently performed work today. In March 1920 he was appointed director of the Hochschule für Musik in Berlin and between 1920 and 1932 he gave extensive musical tuition in a variety of subjects with Berthold Goldschmidt, Alois Hába, Jascha Horenstein, Julius Bürger, Ernst Krenek, Artur Rodzinski, Stefan Wolpe, Zdenka Ticharich and Grete von Zieritz numbering among his students.
Schreker's fame and influence were at their peak during the early years of the Weimar Republic when he was the most performed living opera composer after Richard Strauss. The decline of his artistic fortunes began with the mixed reception given to IRRELOHE (Cologne, 1924 under Otto Klemperer) and the failure of DER SINGENDE TEUFEL (Berlin, 1928 under Erich Kleiber). Political developments and the spread of anti-Semitism were also contributory factors, both of which heralded the end of Schreker's career. Right-wing demonstrations marred the premičre of DER SCHMIED VON GENT (Berlin, 1932) and National Socialist pressure forced the cancellation of the scheduled Freiburg premičre of CHRISTOPHORUS in 1933 (the work was finally performed there in 1978). Finally, in June 1932, Schreker lost his position as Director of the Musikhochschule in Berlin and, the following year, also his post as professor of composition at the Akademie der Künste. In his lifetime he went from being hailed as the future of German opera to being considered irrelevant as a composer and marginalized as an educator. After suffering from a stroke in December 1933, he died in Berlin on 21 March, 1934, two days before his 56th birthday.
Although Schreker was influenced by composers such as Richard Strauss and Richard Wagner, his mature style shows a highly individual harmonic language, which, although broadly tonal, is inflected with chromatic and polytonal passages.”
- Loyal Bluto