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Siegmund von HAUSEGGER (1872-1948)
Natursymphonie (1911) [56:37]
WDR Rundfunkchor Köln; WDR Sinfonieorchester Köln/Ari Rasilainen
rec. Philharmonie Köln, 28 November-2 December 2005. DDD
CPO 7772372 [56:37]


Experience Classicsonline

will know the name of Siegmund von Hausegger. In 1938 he conducted the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra in the first commercial recording of the Ninth Symphony which is now on Preiser PR90148. He had conducted the work in Munich in 1932 and followed up with the original of Bruckner 5 again in Munich in 1935. He also recorded Liszt’s Tasso and Weber’s Abu Hassan overture on an acoustic Polydor (B20607) with the Berlin State Opera Orchestra.

Born in Graz, the son of the composer Friedrich von Hausegger, he had a handful of orchestral works to his name including three symphonic poems: Dionysische Phantasie, (1896), Barbarossa (1898/99) and Wieland der Schmied (1904) the latter conducted once by Stokowski. There is also a set of Symphonic Variations on the children’s song Aufklänge (1919). There are also a couple of operas predating the tone poems.

The Natursinfonie could easily have been another pictorial nature symphony in the manner of Raff and Huber. No such thing. Here instead is a full-blown philosophical symphony written in grandeur. It is expressed in Mahlerian magnificence with such fastidious craftsmanship that it never topples over into bombast. You can forget about any Bucknerian involvement. This is a big work which gets to grips with the eternal verities and does so with the deep reach of a philosopher. The language is that of early 20th century romanticism. That first movement starts with the mastery of the opening of Mahler 3 and 6. The exuberant brass writing is redolent of the joyous uproar of Mahler’s First Symphony. The whole thing is lavishly orchestrated and is treated to a simply glorious recording. The effect overall is comparable with Tchaikovsky's Pathetique and Manfred, early Scriabin (First Symphony) and Richard Strauss. Von Hausegger does not go down the route of  Zemlinskian expressionism nor are his lyrical lines as hyper-saturated as those of Josef Marx in the Herbstsinfonie (impatiently awaiting premiere recording) and the Naturtrilogie (ASV). There is something here of the best of Strauss's Also Sprach Zarathustra and Alpensinfonie. This can be assertively heard in the Stürmisch bewegt movement (III). The massed brass cut a fine figure - burred yet aureate. The organ is a presence here though usually discreet rather than in open thunder. The second movement speaks of the cantabile string writing of Franz Schmidt’s Second Symphony – a work lying in the future at the time Von Hausegger was writing. Even so the music rises quickly to a crashingly massive brass-clamorous cortege. The choir joins the orchestra in the finale (Goethes Prooemion) and they have a seething catastrophic triumphant impact but which is not wanting in immaculate poetry. This becomes almost Howells-like at 7:14. The choir sing in Promethean exertion and exaltation which recalls the overweening torrential explosion at the start of Delius's A Mass of Life. It brings to an end a major discovery of a work which all admirers of Mahler and Bantock must hear. Stunningly magnificent. 

I hope for more from this source including August Bungert’s Die Erstes Fahrt Zeppelin and the same composer’s operatic tetralogy Homerisch Welt not to mention the sheeny heroism of Max Trapp’s Homerisch Symphonie. Meantime this is a big symphony at many levels. Let's be grateful to Ari Rasilainen for taking this on for CPO. 

Rob Barnett 


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