Paul Graener: Orchestral Works, Vol. 2 / Werner Andreas Albert


Conductor Werner Andreas Albert conducts the NDR Radiophilharmonie Hannover in what appear to be the world premiere recordings of three gripping orchestral works by German composer Paul Graener (1872-1944). This release comes from cpo, a label with a penchant for bringing to light fascinating repertoire, especially of the late Romantic era and the early 20th century. This is a marvelous period in music history where many fresh discoveries are yet to be made of music by composers who rejected the hyper-cerebral academia of pure atonality and quietly wrote music for heart, mind, soul and ear.

The music of Paul Graener (1872-1944) is heavily indebted to late Romantic traditions. A student of Anton Bruckner and a rough contemporary of Richard Strauss, you can hear the influence of these composers in his music, as well as that of Wagner, Mahler and Reger. Even the focus of his output reflected that of several of these composers, heavily weighted as it was toward orchestral music and opera.

Graener's Symphony Op. 39 in D minor is one of a series of commemorative works the composer wrote in memory of his son, who died at the age of eight. Inspired by a line from Otto Julius Bierbaum "Sorrow is a blacksmith, his hammer strikes hard", the symphony is a dark work. It's written for large orchestra with expanded wind, brass and percussion sections. The music is marked by driving rhythms, abruptly shifting tonal centers, extended orchestral tutti passages and virtuosic writing for all sections of the orchestra. It will at times soften into sections of plaintive beauty, the underlying sense of disquiet never completely withdrawing from the music.

The other two works on the CD are Graener's suite for full orchestra, From the Realm of Pan, Op. 22 (1939) and Prince Eugen,the noble knight, Op. 108, a set of variations for full orchestra. These are equally impressive and finely constructed works. The samples for you to listen to in the sidebar are the opening three short movements of From the Realm of Pan, which provide a representative slice of this fine composer's orchestral oeuvre. Performances are stunning and cpo's sound engineering is up to their usual high standards.