Two leftover scraps from my piece on the luminously strange operas of Franz Schreker. 1) Not one of Schreker's operas has ever been performed in the United States, according to scholar Christopher Hailey. It would be a fine thing if an adventurous opera company — Santa Fe? St. Louis? — took them up. [A reader adds that James Conlon, who has great sympathy for forgotten 20th-century composers, could do them at the LA Opera.] 2) I wanted to write a brief description of Schreker's famous "shimmering" effects, but couldn't shoe-horn it into the piece. In the opening page of the Gezeichneten Prelude, the harmony oscillates between D major and B-flat minor, and what's really interesting is that this alternation takes place in separate layers, at different rates of speed. In the first layer, piano and harps spell out the two triads in swirling triplet arpeggios. In the second layer, celesta and second violins play in the same rhythm, but they change chords with every triplet sixteenth note, producing intermittent dissonances. The first violins, meanwhile, snake around in sinuous patterns, while bass clarinet, violas, and cellos present Alviano's yearning, ambiguous theme. It's one of the most bewitching soundscapes ever devised.
Photo from the Schreker Foundation. The "What about Schreker?" story was told to me by David Denby. This recording is a good introduction, though not ideal. CDs and a DVD of the Salzburg Gezeichneten may be forthcoming.