Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

Music Webmaster
Len Mullenger:

KARL WEIGL (1881-1949)
String Quartet No. 1 (1904) 44.05
String Quartet No. 5 (1933) 26.10
World Premiere Recordings
Artis Quartett, Wien
rec Nimbus Concert Hall, 3-5 Dec 1999
NIMBUS NI5646 [70.15]

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It has been years since Weigl's music has benefited from a commercial recording. Unless I am much mistaken this is the first (maybe the second - there is, I understand, an Orfeo CD of one of the other quartets) CD of his music. In the late 1970s and early 1980s there were several LPs of the string quartets including one from CRI (not as yet reissued).

Weigl's mighty first quartet is no apprentice effort but one of apparent confidence, lit by an imagination of its own, and no-one else's, stamp. Superficially there are resemblances to the rearing passion of Brahms' First Symphony and Double Concerto crossed with Dvorak's luscious tunefulness. Everything fits with ineluctable accord and the moods and music are utterly convincing. A troubled adagio leads to the wilds of the 'bacchantisch' third with its recall of the densely crunched harmony of the first Smetana Quartet - restrained and gloomily resinous. The finale is tenderly coaxing and hesitantly triumphant and it is tenderness that plays out the work in one of the most affecting creative strokes. Imagine a direct line with the serenity of Schubert's String Quintet.

Nearly thirty years on Weigl adheres to the same language with every sign that it was his as naturally as breathing. It is, quite simply, glorious music and, in case you were wondering, there is nothing of dissonance here except in the transient Hungarian declamation at the start of the finale. It is as if Schubert and Mendelssohn had lived on and developed into the twentieth century, preserving tender beauty, repose and passion and adding to it the probing scalpel of tragedy. Listen to the end of the second movement to hear what I mean. The sombreness of the first quartet's third movement can be discerned in the same movement in the fifth. Dvorak's carefree and folksy lack of complication plays like sunlight over the dappled finale.

The Artis are seemingly captivated by their own music-making - typical of the best of chamber music and drawing us into their 'ring' - their communion.

We must keep our fingers crossed that Nimbus and the Artis will complete the cycle and that Weigl's other music will catch the attention. There is a splendid violin concerto (played by Sidney Harth and heard by me in an off air recording) and his fifth symphony The Apocalyptic was premiered by Stokowski with the American SO.

Not a difficult decision: buy. Highly recommended.

Rob Barnett

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