Felix DRAESEKE (1835-1913)
Symphony No. 3 in C, Op. 40, 'Symphonia tragica'. Funeral March in
E minor, Op.
North German Radio Symphony
CPO 999 581-2 [DDD]
Early in the twentieth century, Draeseke's Third Symphony was championed
by such exalted names as Nikisch, Pfitzner, Reiner and Böhm. The pianist
Edwin Fischer found room for Draeseke's Piano Sonata, Op. 6 in his recital
programmes. Having slipped into near total obscurity, here is a convenient
opportunity for reassessment of at least some of Draeseke's music.
It is easy to spot influences: there are shades of Weber in the
Andante introduction, whilst the Scherzo is a sort of Mendelssohn-plus,
for example. Wagner joins the rich vein of Romanticism (Draeseke visited
Wagner in Switzerland and attended the premières of Tristan
and Meistersinger in Munich), as does the Liszt of the symphonic poems.
But playing this game can mislead, and overshadow what in this case is an
impressive piece in its own right.
The North German Radio Symphony Orchestra, Hanover under Jörg-Peter
Weigle certainly seems to believe in Draeseke's worth. This is a very committed
performance with a fine, spacious recording to support it. There has only
been one previous recording, and that was cut (on Urania URLP7162, re-released
in stereo in 1979 on Varèse-Sarabande VC81092), so this account of
the complete score is doubly welcome. The orchestra is fully the equal of
the demands placed on it (listen to how the strings negotiate the high lines
of the Trio, or how they muster such depth in the Grave).
The later Funeral March is dedicated to the memory of German soldiers who
fell in Africa during the Colonial Wars. The quiet close of the symphony
ushers it in well, and it contains a lyrical and heartfelt contrasting theme
that is most touching.
You may well feel that this disc comes as something of a revelation.