OP0130. PENTHESILEA (Schoeck), Live Performance, 17 Aug., 1982, Salzburg, w.Albrecht Cond. ORF Ensemble; Helga Dernesch, Jane Marsh, Mechthild Gessendorf, Marjana Lipovsek, Theo Adam, etc. (Germany) Orfeo C364 941, w.Elaborate Libretto-Brochure. Final copy! - 4011790364124
“The plot of Schoeck’s PENTHESILEA follows von Kleist's grim drama. The story and atmosphere are akin to the murderously sinister material used by Fibich in his HIPPODAMIA melodrama and the opera SARKA. Schoeck shortened the text of the play but resisted the temptation to add anything. The work was premiered in 1927 at the Dresden Opera.
Schoeck’s approach is highly individual. The soundworld stands out from his other operas. The orchestra includes two pianos, only four solo violins, a disproportionately large number of violas, cellos and double basses, no harps, no bassoon only a contra-bassoon, ten clarinets, four trumpets in the orchestra and three extensively used trumpets on stage. This is the toughest of the Schoeck operas. SCHLOSS DURANDE and MASSIMILLA DONI are each much more approachable in a hyper-romantic mode related to the work of Schreker and Zemlinsky. In PENTHESILEA Schoeck takes his lead from the priests of dissonance softening the elbows and angularities with a misty aureole.
The voices in this 1982 production are generally good though all show signs of some stress. Helga Dernesch acts her role and has a fine sprechgesang voice. Her singing however is troubled with vibrato and time has stripped some of the gold from her tone. The choral contribution is determined with plenty of heft.
The writing is packed with marvellous effects and incidents. Note the conveyed initmacy of the dialogue among the Amazonians. Moonlight shifts and trickles through the textures of the four solo violins in a way perhaps learnt from Schoeck’s study of the score of ROSENKAVALIER.
Gerd Albrecht is an under-appreciated conductor. Surely his neglect at an international level is due to his unswerving commitment to the unfashionable late-romantic operas of Schreker, Zemlinsky and Schoeck. This Salzburg Festival production was not his first recorded foray into Schoeck. He is the conductor of the Koch-Schwann recording of Schoeck's masterpiece MASSIMILLA DONI (1934-35). He can be seen in the same crusading light as Norman Del Mar and Michel Plasson.
This was a joint production involving ORF, the EBU and the Festival Committee. Support also came from the Pro Helvetia Foundation and the Othmar Schoeck Society. After the Salzburg performances PENTHESILEA was produced by eleven opera houses.”
- Rob Barnett, musicweb-international