The case of Ernst Boehe (1880-1938; sometimes spelled Böhe) is like that of any number of musicians who started out to be composers but are ultimately remembered primarily for their work as conductors (one thinks of Weingartner and Furtwängler). In this case, the orchestra playing Boehe's music is the one that he essentially founded just after World War I, the one now-called the State Philharmonic of the Rhineland-Palatinate (Staatsphilharmonie Rheinland-Pfalz) based in Ludwigshafen am Rhein. The music contained herein was all written in his twenties, and indeed he did not write much of anything after he took up conducting full-time. Here we have three tone poems, each more than twenty minutes long, each in the style of Richard Strauss, a kind of hyperchromatic, contrapuntal, richly orchestrated music intended to convey emotional states as well as points in a narrative. There is occasional full-brass bluster reminiscent of Bruckner. And there are occasionally interesting moments, but not enough to rescue these overblown concoctions.
First is the fourth section of a tetralogy called 'Aus Odysseus' Fahrten' ('From Ulysses' Voyages') called 'Odysseus' Heimkehr' ('Ulysses' Return Home'). It is a 29 minute description of the travails of Ulysses as he tries to return from his adventures to his faithful wife Penelope. Musically it is characterized by a paucity of memorable melodies that nonetheless are put through the harmonic grinder, with incessant modulation clothed in inventive orchestration. It all adds up to very little although the thrust of the music would have us believe that this is Important Stuff.
Much the same can be said for the other two works included here: 'Taormina,' a tone poem commemorating Boehe's vacation in Sicily, and 'Symphonisch Epilog zur einer Tragödie' ('Symphonic Epilog to a Tragedy'). Both are occasionally soured by some uncertain brass intonation.
One wants so much for this music to be more than it is, but the truth is that for all Boehe's skill as a manipulator of musical materials, he doesn't really have anything that important to say even though he keeps repeating it more loudly. It's probably just as well that he spent the majority of his adult life as a well-respected conductor in his native southern Germany.
The performances here by Werner Andreas Albert and the Rheinland-Pfalz Philharmonic are all one could expect. And the sound is full, rich and lifelike. And in spite of my cavils about this music, my hat is off to cpo for bringing us bits and pieces of late romantic music from Germany; otherwise we would not have had their marvelous releases of music by Emil von Reznicek from them ('Der Sieger' and 'Schlemihl').