Schoeck’s Operas: A Question of Genre
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Schoeck’s Operas: A Question of Genre book
Othmar Schoeck, by turning Venus into a symbol of pure beauty, of perfection ‘attainable only in death’, gives the story a Wagnerian gloss which changes its character completely and has the effect of inverting its message. There is a good deal of Faust in this – Faustian self-realisation is a recurring theme in Schoeck – and the composer sealed the connection when he said that the motto of Venus was ‘The eternal feminine draws us upwards’. In Venus, Penthesilea and Vom Fischer Schoeck covers as much stylistic ground as many other composers do in a lifetime. To look at them just from the tonal point of view: in Venus tonality is still fresh, spontaneous, as if ‘before the fall’; Penthesilea extends it to a point where it hardly makes sense to call the music tonal any more; Vom Fischer reconstitutes it, almost like neoclassical Stravinsky or Hindemith.