Dramatic Symphony; Piano Concerto No. 1; Rhythmphony
Jonathan Powell (piano); Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra/Johannes Kalitzke
Caprice C5476 64:42 min
The music of Hans Winterberg (1901-1991) was almost completely unknown until relatively recently. Born into a Jewish family in Prague, Winterberg’s compositional development was inevitably interrupted after the 1939 Nazi invasion and his internment in Terezín. Yet, ironically, his position became even more precarious after the defeat of Germany in 1945. As a German-speaking Czech, he was now considered persona non grata in his native country and, two years later, took refuge in Bavaria, where he spent the rest of his life.
The three works presented here come from different periods, but share the same concern, as underlined by the indispensable notes of the libretto by Michael Haas, of weaving a stylistic link between the Slavic East and the Austro-German West. In the dramatic symphony from 1936, Winterberg’s musical language is more closely aligned with the Second Viennese School, emulating a level of Bergian expressionism at its most intense. The hard-hitting, thrilling writing of the First Piano Concerto from 1948 suggests a stronger affinity with Bartók and Prokofiev. Without a doubt, the most important piece is Rhythmphony (1967) which, as its title suggests, exploits complex and often intriguing rhythmic patterns dressed in colorful orchestration.
Thanks to his penchant for writing short and succinct movements. Winterberg’s harsh, gritty, uncompromising music never overstays its welcome. It certainly receives compelling guidance from Johannes Kalitzke and the Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra, and Jonathan Powell does a wonderful job of projecting the dynamic energy of the piano concerto.