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Ernst Toch
Tanz-Suite / Cello Concerto

Tanz-Suite, Op. 30
Priya Mitchell, violin
Lars Wouters van den Oudenweijer, clarinet
Hartmut Rohde, viola
Marieke Schneemann, flute
Daniel Tummes, percussion
Stacey Watton, double bass

Cello Concerto, Op. 35
Spectrum Concerts Berlin/Thomas Carroll; Christian Poltera, cello

Naxos 8.559282
[TT : 58 mins]

Ernst Toch
is as a name long familiar, but one whose music was virtually unknown to me before receiving this CD for review.

It is delightful music from the mid-20s "which came to terms with all modem musical trends in an idiosyncratic and creative way, without being completely committed to anyone" (Herbert Zipper); accessible but not simplistic, strongly crafted and individual enough for its fertile post-War times. It should not be passed by.

Koch epitomises the fate of many prolific immigrant composers. He was forced to emigrate from Germany in 1933, eventually settling in the United States. However, Toch’s music did not achieve the level of success there that it had enjoyed in Europe.

Toch was not good at selling himself. "He could not even promote a glass of water ". He initially concentrated his energies on rescuing his relatives to emigrate to America, becoming deeply depressed as he was not able to save many from the Holocaust.

The Tanz-Suite, Gp. 30, and the Cello Concerto, Gp. 35 (1923/1924) show "his individual and integrating position amid the different currents and trends of the post-war period of disruption" (Habakuk Traber). It is suggested that the Tanz-Suite benefits from a performance without the visual aspect of the dance - "dance has become music with its complete spectrum of expressions from the elegaic to the grotesque".

The Cello Concerto, with the superb Spectrum Concerts Berlin chamber ensemble and soloist Christian Poltera, is a piece that you'd think cellists would have been falling over each other to play. There has been a gradual revival of interest in Toch’s work, we are told, in which Spectrum Concerts Berlin has taken a decisive part, and one wonders if it would have come about (or will be sustained) without the support of the Ernst Toch Society? Nowadays marketing and promotion determine what we hear, whether by active composers or those of past generations, and will influence those towards the end of their careers who can so easilay fall into undeserved oblivion.

Try this one, and I am encouraged to explore two more Koch releases in the dauntingly extensive Naxos American Classics and Milken Archive catalogues.

Peter Grahame Woolf


For an unusual take on Ernst Toch see http://www.threepennyreview.com/samples/weschler_w03.html