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Frankie goes to Russia

img  Tobias

Frank Strobels personal history once again goes to prove one thing: Success is not a certainty when working on a project you truly believe in. But it is a real possibility, even if you're trying something as hard as rectifying film music's status as an art form to be taken seriously.

It has to be said: Strobel has had two things going for him. Firstly, there was his love for the golden age of the genre, when scores still mainly consisted of original compositions for orchestra and not randomly picked songs by current chart acts. This made it much easier to connect with regular Classical audiences as if he fostered an admiration for Hans Zimmer. And secondly, he was talented and lucky enough to be esteemed worthy to carry Alfred Schnittke's legacy into a new era. While Schnittke is widely recognised as one of the most important composers of the last century, interest has up to now mainly focussed on his symphonic work - a feat cemented by the fact that his scores belonged to Russian movies, far away from today's Hollywood aesthetics (or commercial broadcasters' schedules). Strobel has helped in changing that perception in the last couple of years and an edition of several CDs should speed up that process some more.

Born in Munich in 1966, Frank Strobel has always taken a liking to combining his regular duties as a conductor (which, we are sure, are just as pleasant to him) with his great passion film music. First performances go back to the early 90s, at the beginning mostly accompanying silent movies. Quickly, he is increasingly booked as a maestro for TV and movie productions and becomes a name in the scene, changing from his position as leader of the German film orchestra at Babelsberg to the European FilmPhilharmonie and scoring spectacular successes with the "Rundfunk Sinfonieorchester Berlin" with Prokofjews "Alexander Newski". His love for Schnittke is mirrored by the debut rendition of "The last days of St. Petersburg", which he conducts at the famous Alte Oper in Frankfurt in 1992.

As his health was deteriorating, Schnittke felt the growing urge of having some of his dearest film musics rearranged as orchestral suites and of finding someone who could complete this task with dedication and a full understanding of his intentions. His respect for Strobel had only grown over the years, so he entrusted him with the task. There was a total of sixty compositions to choose from of which fourteen have up to now been reworked - as well as being made available to the public. Some of these have also been published by prestigious record companies - cpo has released one disc and capriccio has taken on a more extensive role: Four CDs will allow for a deep and close look at Schnittke's scores.

The reaction to projects like this one are anything but certain - why, after all, should anyone want to listen to stuff this old, when there's mind-boggling blockbuster-material out there? But reactions where overwhelmingly positive. The first capriccio CD managed to win first prize at the German music critics awards. And now, the "The Story of an unknown actor" as well as "The Commisar" have been performed in Berlin, adding to the fascinating catalogue.

A story with a happy development, therefore, but an open end: Strobel will continue to play Schnittke's music and there is plenty of material waiting to be rearranged. The curtain will still be up for some time.

Homepage: Frank Strobel
Homepage: Frank Strobel At Van Walsum
Homepage: Frank Strobel at cpo
Homepage: Frank Strobel at capriccio

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