Max Bruch's cantata 'Das Lied von der Glocke' ('The Song of the Bell') is based on Schiller's poem of that name, and there was a time when every German school child memorized the text, largely because it was a heavily allegorical tale, in the words of the booklet writer, 'synchronizing the casting of a bell with the phases of human life, and what is more, [that] insists not only on philosophizing about the norms and values of [petit bourgeois] middle-class society in Schiller's verbose manner but also on defining the significance of the individual in this cosmos.' It was felt to uphold the virtuous, striving, increasingly nationalistic values of 19th-century German life. The poem understandably fell from favor after the upheavals of 20th-century German history. The cantata had been premièred in 1878 and had some popularity for several decades. But by the time of the 2004 bicentennial of Schiller's death both the poem and the cantata had completely fallen out of favor; thus this performance. Not surprisingly, the bicentenary celebration occurred in Weimar, the intellectual capital of Germany in the late classic and early romantic period, home of Goethe and Schiller as well as many other thinkers and artists. The performing forces in this recording are primarily from that city -- the Staatskapelle Weimar, German singers (but a chorus from, strangely, Prague). The conductor, Jac van Steen, is, as far as I know, almost completely unheard of. Certainly the performance does little to enhance either his or Bruch's reputation. It is provincial, if earnest, and boring as hell. This is not to say that there aren't some beautiful passages in the piece, primarily in the slow choral passages. But there is far too much recitative that goes on and on in Schiller's overblown text. It does not help that the booklet's English translation of Schiller's poem is the one devised by that writer whose style has become the epitome of purple prose, Edward Bulwer-Lytton, whose memorable phrase 'It was a dark and stormy night' has been parodied by everyone from Charles Schulz to the organizers of the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest whose self-description is 'where www means "Wretched Writers Welcome".'
Give this one a miss unless you are a Bruch completist or a Schiller aficionado.