Before Richard Schöenherz (born 1947) became known for working in bands such as Dawn and Einstein, he and Manuel Rigoni created the concept album ‘Victor’. It is viewed by many as a lost classic of progressive rock, as it balances between orchestrated and sophisticated rock in a unique manner. As well as Richard providing keyboards and lead vocals, and Manuel providing drums and percussion, they combined Kurt Hauenstein (Supermax), Harry Stojka, Achim Buchstab, Johan Daansers and Peter Wolf along with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and the Vienna Academy Chamber Choir.
'Victor’ is a symphonic tour de force about the power of youth and a plea for deference to authority, war and cruelty. It is centred around a young man and his upbringing in a circus and his thoughts and rebellion, of sorts, against the adult conception of life and what one is supposed to with it. Partly recorded and mixed in the legendary Abbey Road Studios, 'Victor’ is still a timeless work that is worth exploring…………….. Sometimes it just so happens that you stumble cross an album that you simply know must be good. An album you feel from the get go, although you know nothing about it. Most albums I acquire are known to me in one way or another. This stunning album wasn’t and by the looks of it I am not alone in my ignorance. I seems to be rather forgotten, squatting in the dark corners of prog. When I first laid eyes on the album I was struck and fascinated by the cover. Such a beautiful one. I had just finished Reading “1984” (again) and by some strange coincidence the cover seemed to recall the world which Orwell depicted in words. This was obviously just a feeling of mine, emanating from my most vivid imagination. Anyway… When I saw this wonderful piece of cover art I knew and I felt deep down in the very fibres of my soul (if there are any) that this is an album of overwhelming quaities and depth. I knew it. I felt it. And you know what, that deep sense of wonder was true. I had struck gold. I truly had
The album is centered around Victor, a young boy growing up at a circus that’s seen better days. The father wants Victor to abide to his fate and become a clown, while Victor himself wants something else out of life. It may all sound a bit thin for a story but it really isn’t. It is on the contrary quite intriguing, especially if you consider the true subject of the album, the pursuit of happiness and the meaning of life. What is it all about? Should one bow down to the wants and needs of ones elders or do we owe it to ourselves to find our own way? It is all a question of progress, I suppose. If all of us always did what our elders want, where would we be? Would we still be cooped up in lowly holes in the ground, raiding the surrouning countryside for carcasses dressed only in the suit of our own hide? I may be rambling and you wondering where is all this leading? It will end here and instead I will focus on the music. So, wthout further ado I thank you for your patience and will move on.
The first thing one can say about the music is that it is very powerful yet delicate. Divided into four suites, each one almost 20 minutes long, the album might seem tough to swallow. I come to think of the excesses of Yes and “Tales of topographic oceans” but the music on Rigoni & Schonherz album is far more accessible, though not necessarily lacking in complexity. Each suite has a variety of styles and genres, ranging from (almost) old school rock'n'roll via hard rock and outright classical movements of the finest sort. It has been proven that the merging of classical and rock is a tricky one, as shown by Jon Lord’s “Gemini suite” but it can certainly be extremely rewarding when exected correctly, as by Focus on “Hamburger concerto”. The classical sections of “Victor” is apart from being fantastic pieces in their own right, also very fitting in the context of the album. Acting as dramatic interludes or bridges between the different stges of the story it is reminiscent of how soundtracks work in movies, setting the mood and reinforces the storyline. The rock side of things are very engaging aswell, apart from some small entries of basic rock'n'roll which I do not approve of but those are few and ruins nothing of the album, seen as a whole.
There are an abundance of keyboards on “Victor”, which suits me perfectly. Everything from piano and organ to other electrically powered keyboards is used to perfection, suiting the context very well. The presence of The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra puts further greatness to an already fantastic muscial landscape.
I hear echoes of Rick Wakeman, circa 1974-1976, and his most pompous and overblown exercises. (And that is meant in the most positive and loving way possible.) The quire and classical elements only adds to this notion. Still, “Victor” certainly is an entity of it’s own It is as pompous and overblown as anything you could imagine but in the best of ways. After all, that is an integral part of prog and so it should be.
While all four suites are exquiste and really enjoyable, I do find the second and third one to be the best. The thirds holds my favorite part, “Victor’s sng to his faher” with a great and memorable melody line. Very dramatic and powerful indeed.
I have already stated that the album is accessible and that still stands but it must be said this album is also highly complex in it’s execution and delivery. The balance between the very competent classical sections and the rock ones are so fantasically performed and is really an accomplishment. I stood and keeps standing in awe when listening to this album. It is a thorough album, never loosing neither focus nor the ability to enthrall. It is a very spellbinding album of great drama and depth that I really adore. Truly adore.
My initial feeling for this album has proven to be accurate. This is really a record to discover and I think that anyone with an interest in (vintage) prog would do well to hear.How such a remarkable body of work has remained so anonymous I’ll never know but that’s the way the cookie crumbles, I suppose. There are so many albums out there needing to be discovered. Hopefully this review will remedy that, at least as far as this album is concerned. The overall rating for me has to be a five star one. I cannot really be content in giving it four stars. I would regret it, I think.
An outstanding one-off album from the very deep of the progressive ocean….. by GruvanDahlman …………. Originally published in 1975 by the composers and musicians MANUEL RIGONI - drums and RICHARD SCHÖNHERZ - vocal & keyboard instruments known in the Viennese / Austrian music scene, Symphonic Rockoper unfortunately did not have the expected success. The cost for an opulent LP record layout, for the production with nine different sound engineers in six different sound studios (including the Abbey Road Studios) as well as for the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and the Viennese Academy Chamber Choir could not be covered by the then sale. This is a very unfortunate fact, as the highly varied musical staging of classic, rock and pop composition still has its charms. It would be disappointing if the republishing of Mig-Music in the beautifully designed Digibook with 24-page artistically appealing and informative booklet again flop.
In this 76-minute symphonic rock opera with English-language singing, the story of Victor, which grows up in a derelict circus, is told. His mother is sitting in a wheelchair, she has been an accident as a trapeze artist. Victor’s father works as a clown and wants his son to become a clown. Victor has to appear, can not cope with the role and the circus becomes a nightmare. In the end he leaves his parents and the circus. As profane as the story sounds in the first moment, however, it is a sensitively and complexly implemented production of the power of the youth and a plea against the authorities, war and cruelty.
To this extent, the musical realization in the interplay between classical music / chamber music, spherical / psychedelic phases, rocky and krautigen grooves in the style of the late 60s and early 70s, some samples with different soundscapes as well as catchy melodies is really not boring. Oh yes - there are also some charming bluesy notes, jazzy sounds, avant-garde disharmonies and even balladeskes.
To this versatile instrumental production are also listenable songs of three protagonists offered, the main chorus with appealing timbre RICHARD SCHÖNHERZ himself. On the song “Song Of Life”, the Austrian head of the Funk 'N’ Soul group Supermax, who died recently, on 20 March 2011, sings. In addition, you can hear some choral songs, and you can hear some voice samples like “Ladies and Gentlemen, we proudly present Jimmy Hendrix, Brian Jones, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Tim Buckley and …” Oldie beat number. Subsequently, it is surprisingly continued in pompous and dramatic classical music.
In addition to the many classical orchestral melodies as well as varied mood and genre changes for me is also the patina-laden emotional and rocking guitar playing of HARRY STOJKA and JOHAN DAANSEN particularly charming. In addition, I am thrilled by Jonathan, Keith Reid, David Sinclair and, above all, Rick Wright, keyboardsounds of a RICHARD SCHÖNHERZ.
To this extent, I would like to conclude a big THANKSELF to the label Made In Germany Music - Mig, which brought this lost jewel of sophisticated symphonic rock music back to light……….by…….. Wolfram Ehrhardt………
Sometimes there are memories of music that have nothing to do with the music itself. In the case of “Victor”, this is one of Udo Kier (Christoph-Schlingensief-Muse, Andy-Warhol-Spezi, an actor who likes to paint figures on the fringe of madness - and beyond) as the incarnation of JIM MORRISON In a circus manned by JIMI HENDRIX, BRIAN JONES and JANIS JOPLIN. This sequence has remained a long and impressive one, although I could not remember the “Kleine Fernsehspiel”. Now, in the course of the release of RIGONI / SCHOENHERZ’s former double-album “Victor - A Symphonic Poem”, remastered and summed up on a CD, I remember it again. The small scene comes from Walter Bockmayers and Rolf Bührmanns (notorious for their films as camouflaged travesties) film adaptation of the symphonic concept. 1978, three years after its first publication.
RIGONI and SCHOENHERZ are already two. In 1970 and 1971 they were responsible for the contributions of Austria to the Eurovision Song Contest (“Music” and “Falter im Wind”), played in various (rather locally successful) bands and projects (among others “C-DEPARTMENT”, “SCHÖNHERZ, RATZER, DOGETTE, RIGONI ”) and were responsible for various soundtracks, both individually and individually. Who does not remember the Georg Thomalla classic “Dornwittchen und Schneeröschen” for which the two wrote the music. While RIGONI disappeared in the sinking, SCHOENHERZ is still very successful in the music trade, especially with his “Rilke” and “Hesse” projects, where he brings together more or less talented, but always prominent, ladies and gentlemen Of the (German-speaking) culture-making and, with his (and ANGELICA FLEERs) settings, he makes texts of the two different poets.
But RIGONI / SCHOENHERZ is most closely associated with a name. No, not WOLFGANG AMBROS. Although quite possible. Nor with ANDRÉ HELLER. Much shorter and still 1975 a double LP long: “Victor”. A time when it was still possible to see the circus as a microcosm, as an allegorical correctional institution, in which one had to fight the way out into life under pain. Victor, a titling hero and a sad clown in the shadow of the wishes of his parents, does exactly that: he grows up. Great story. Since I found circuses from small on quite terrible (there I agree Victory’s intention to escape completely), I am perhaps somewhat biased. Clowns, rather to fear than laughter, trapeze artist shortly before crash, spring-helmed horses, which have to run constantly in the circle, old-awake lions, which in the famous Dompteurstrick - head in the throat - already the temporomandibular joints outline. Fun, sport, sensations, nerve tickles - everywhere, just not here … Grateful theme, however, for a creative artist. The Victors biography to the great Rocktheater worked up. With orchestras, delicate keyboardsounds, pathetic chants, delicate guitars lines and sweeping rhythms. Or, as the press release says, “a milestone of the Prog-Rock, a conceptal album that performed the balancing act between orchestral classical and sophisticated rock in a unique way.” Only not necessarily, but kind already. Recorded et al. In the Abbey Road studios, what the “Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da” passages may explain, RIGONI / SCHOENHERZ rave through diverse music styles. Where “raging” is not quite the right expression. If they do not sneak or stagger, the musicians move without a moment, sometimes with an effort, through the pop, rock, blues, jazz and neoromantic, symphonic sound cosmos. Without fear of bombast, kitsch and sprawling instrumental parts, both in small rocking and full orchestras. Richard Schönherz sings with that Germanic accent, which was formerly terrible and now charming. Those were the days …
Sometimes you can even land in the finely spoiled world of the musicals; But overall, “Victor” is a colorful miracle, from which so differently all the different genres and melodies are pulled, that one can really only sink back into the chair, in order to recognize appreciately: for more than 35 years on the hump it all sounds damn good . Time clever and appealing, there are always sequences, which elicit joyful nods; Then again dilettante episodes, but in a decidedly occupying way. Do not dilettieren like failure, but as people, who simply want to try, no matter what rauskommt. An attitude that today could hardly create such an opulent publication. As not a small layer of sugar cake, there is still a rich portion of cabbage skirt between ELOY and GROBSCHNIITT…………..
In the seventies, some rock operas came on the market. Most of them will remember Jeff Wayne’s masterpiece “War Of The Worlds”. But also “The King Of Elfland’s Daughter”, “Tell”, “The Eye Of Wendor” and the “Intergalactic Touring Band” also belonged to this division. Another much-respected work from the year 1975 came from Austria and bore the title “Victor”. The makers behind this very ambitious work were Richard Schoenherz and Manuel Rigoni.
The album was released in 1975 as a double-LP and had a 20-page booklet in the fold-up cover, the gorgeous atmospheric drawings and texts that underlined the story. Mig will be releasing this great work, entitled “A Symphonic Poem”, on 29.04.20111, for the first time on CD. The emphasis was placed on keeping the really sophisticated artwork, so all the texts and drawings are included in the enclosed 24-page booklet.
The nine tracks, which were distributed on four LP pages, were grouped into four tracks (on the vinyl discs, four parts were also printed) so that each of the tracks now contains an LP page, although the On the cover of the CD.
Richard Schoenherz sings and plays the keyboards, and Manuel Rigoni can be heard on drums and percussion. There are also guest musicians such as Kurt Hauenstein on the bass and vocals at “Song Of Life” (he is known for his project Supermax), Harry Stojka on guitar, Achim Buchstab singing “Who Is Victor” and “Where Is Victor” Johan Daansen to guitar and Peter Wolf ARP at “The Invitation”. The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and the Viennese Academy Chamber Choir are also involved.
The first track will be released electronically. Here, the keyboards are reminiscent of the Swede Bo Hansson. The drums, percussion and strings are quickly added. Effects like a whistle, circus music, marching people and another circus atmosphere lead to the first sung part. Rock music is offered, which is reminiscent of Novalis, but is much rockier. As soon as the singing is finished, the Philharmonic Orchestra is used, offering a bombastic symphonic part, which pendulates between pure classical music and soundtrack music.
The second song in the first part is rocking and sounds like a mixture of the Beatles, The Who and other 60s bands. These rocking parts alternate abruptly with the classic parts, so you can really speak of a rock opera.
Part 2 is somewhat more catchy because the classical elements are not as dominant as in the first part. Now additional elements such as jazz or funky rhythms complement the sound. The first ten minutes of this track are clearly the rock, while the last third with a bump into a classic part, which is interrupted only briefly by an atmospheric part, which by its organ reminds of bands like Moody Blues.
Part 3 is almost exclusively devoted to rock. Here you can also find jazzrocke elements, while Part 4 offers classical music in the first five minutes and afterwards with gorgeous keyboards and a gentle guitars line proggig. But in this piece, the classic and the rock are repeated several times. With the rock passages one feels as if Rigoni and Schoenherz had banned all styles of the ending 60 ’s and early 70’ s on a record.
Through its soundtrack character in the classical passages, the work looks like head cinema, which is the theme of the youth’s youth and a plea against authority, war and cruelty. A great work, but the mixture of classic and rock is not easy to consume. At least two musical worlds meet here. Actually, it is a pity that you can not select the individual pieces. On the other hand, the components are so interconnected that one would tear them, one could select them individually. “Victor” is an ambitious work that is very coherent and still sounds good today. Highly recommended.
Stephan Schelle, April 2011………………….
Personnel: - Richard Schönherz - keyboards, lead vocals - Manuel Rigoni - drums, percussion + - Harry Stojka - guitar - Johan Daansen - guitar - Kurt Hauenstein - bass, lead vocals (04c) - Achim Buchstab - lead vocals (02a,03b) - Peter Wolf - Arp synthesizer (01a) - The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra - orchestra - Wiener Akademie Kammerchor - choir - Peter Hauke - producer
Tracklist 1 The Invitation Synthesizer [ARP] – Peter Wolf (3) 2 The Head Of The Circus Sings For His Beloved Audience 3 Who Is Victor? Lead Vocals – Achim Buchstab 4 Victor’s Song For Himself 5 Victor’s Song For His Father 6 Where Is Victor? Lead Vocals – Achim Buchstab 7 Victor’s Dream 8 Victor’s Song For The White Man 9 The Song Of Life Lead Vocals – Kurt Hauenstein