Eugen d’Albert: Prologue to ‘Tiefland’, Op. 34; Symphony in F, Op. 4 / Jun Markl


Naxos brings us this beautifully performed and recorded CD of two works that are highly deserving of better representation in the catalog: Eugen d'Albert's Symphony in F major, Op. 4 and the Symphonic Prologue to the Opera 'Tiefland', Op. 34. Jun Märkl leads the MDR Leipzig Radio Symphony Orchestra in exceptionally fine performances.

Eugen d'Albert (1864-1932) was born in Scotland to parents of French and Italian origin. His early studies were in England, but he later declared Germany to be his homeland. He was a prolific composer best know for his operas, of which he wrote twenty-one. It's surprising that he got anything done at all given that he had been married six times and was actively working on his sixth divorce at the time of his death in 1932. d'Albert was best known as a pianist. He studied with Liszt and performed both Brahms piano concertos in Berlin in 1896 in concerts conducted by the composer. Before turning his attention more completely to composition, he had travelled and concertized throughout Europe and the U.S.

His most successful opera, and the only one that retains a toe-hold in the repertoire, is Tiefland, the prologue to which begins this CD. The opera opens in a high mountains meadow, among jagged snowy peaks and early morning stars, clouded in a mist that is visible in the day's first light. d'Albert's music is highly evocative of this setting; you can listen to roughly half of the prologue on the sample that accompanies this review. The two works on this disc are separated by about forty years, but both sound as though they could have come from the late nineteenth century.

If you wish to investigate d'Albert's music further, aside from his operas, his finest compositions are his cello concerto, the two piano concertos, and two string quartets, as well as the Symphony in F major on this Naxos CD.