Classical Editor: Rob Barnett                               Music Webmaster Len Mullenger:

Lieder and Chamber Music
Seven Songs Op. 1 (1903-4)
Selected Songs (1900-1936)
Five Duets for soprano and baritone (1909)
Five Songs for soprano and string quartet (1934)
Viola Sonata (1940)
Two Pieces for cello and piano (1940)
String Quartet No. 4 (1924)
Evelyn Chih-Yih Chan (sop)
Michael Kutner (par)
Garth Knox (viola)
Maróth Bálint (cello)
Bárkányi Éva (piano)
Stephane Ginsburg (piano)
Akadémia Kvartett
rec Budapest, 4-7 Oct 1999
Special Limited Private Edition of 1000 2CD box-sets
50th Anniversary Commemorative Recording
THE KARL WEIGL FOUNDATION KWF991001-2 [56.25+58.42]

I was delighted recently when, having read my review of the Nimbus recording of Karl Weigl's string quartets 1 and 5, the composer's grandson (another Karl Weigl) contacted me by e-mail. From this I discovered that there is a Karl Weigl Foundation dedicated to the publication and recording of Weigl's music.

Biographical information can be found in my Nimbus review but here is another composer banished from a Vienna intolerant of Jews and Socialists (Weigl was both). He, in fact, left his departure rather late in the day. In any event he was not alone. Indeed a number of his Vienna University students also departed for the States during the 1930s. These included Frederic Waldman, who later recorded the Weigl violin concerto with Sidney Harth and the Musica Aeterna orchestra, and Peter Paul Fuchs who recorded the Comedy Overture with the Baton Rouge Symphony.

The 2 discs in this set (trimly packaged in a single width case) divide neatly into songs and chamber music.

The first disc contains the lieder. The Seven Songs Op. 1 are grave echoes of Brahms' Vier Ernste Gesange. Written six years before Weigl left the Vienna Opera to become a freelance composer they are student works. Moments of hope and humour do intrude despite the words. This can be heard in Der tag klingt ab and the stoic anvil-ringing heroism of Schmied schmerz. The words are from Goethe, the Bible, Heine, Nietzsche and Bierbaum. Many of the eight 'selected songs' are also earnest in tone though a lighter note is sounded in Es Goss mein volles leben and Lied der Schiffersmadels. There is a protesting prayer to Jesus [10] which is more a strident poster than an intimate address. Der Toten Mutter and Beatrix are grave while Das Rosenband, with its vagabond tonality provides welcome relief as does the goblet clinking Liebesreime II. Liebeslied (1936) depicts tranced lovers in expressionist style with the piano part completely detached from the vocal line. The Five Duets take us to Brahms again with echoes of the German Folk Song settings. The highlights are the lovely Hymne and the Warlockian dance of Ehestand der Freude. Finally, from 1934, five songs for soprano and string quartet. These were premiered by Elisabeth Schumann with the Rosé Quartet. With their many poignant touches this set is to be cherished. The range is wide: from the liquid web of Trost to the icy Holstian fire of Sommernachmittag (with its dreamy ppp fanfares for the first violin); from the rainy nightmare of Regenlied to the stilly grace of a child's vision of heaven in Ave Maria and concluding with the Mahlerian fable of Einladung zur Martinsgans.

Neither sad nor utterly carefree the adagio and the allegro of the 1940 Viola Sonata enclose a Mozartian ländler. The adagio's tenebrous mood and harmonic complexity are perhaps informed by events on a mainland Europe which, as a socialist and a Jew, he had had to leave in 1938 becoming a US citizen in 1943. An anxious cloud hangs over this work even in the rustic dance of the allegretto commodo.

From the same year as the Viola Sonata come the Two Pieces for cello. These represent the more accessible Weigl. Indeed the Love Song based on the song Liebeslied (1936, on CD1) has the glowing sunset tones of the Delius cello sonata. Wild Dance is also easy to appreciate, coloured by Weigl's Rumanian heritage (though Viennese-born his parents were from Transylvania) with a Beethovenian sense of conflict and a central passage lovingly shaped by cellist Maróth Bálint.

Eight string quartets span Weigl's life. No. 4 shows the questing spirit active in the 1920s. It was premiered in Berlin alongside works by Gál, Wellesz, Grosz and Hauer. The quartet has a foot in two camps. The first is Weigl's personal heimat: the tradition of Schubert. The other is the shadowland of experimental harmonies. You can readily follow the movement between the two and the gradual filterings and transitions. The work is performed with an eye and ear to the need for movement. In fact for a work receiving its world premiere recording this version gives every appearance of being a most confident and integrated interpretation. The second movement is a busy and macabre allegretto while the third is a gem of gracious, understated but complex, beauty. It lifts the curtain on an unhandselled world recognisable from the slow movement of the Schubert String Quintet. The finale reminded me of John Foulds' Quartetto Intimo in its head-over-heels tunefulness.

An illuminating set, then, distinguished, for me, by the Love Song, the Five Songs for Soprano and String Quartet and the String Quartet No. 4.

Weigl represents several recording projects: the first complete survey of the Weigl Quartets and recordings of the six symphonies. Will anyone translate these ideas from hope into reality? Nimbus and Orfeo have lead the way with isolated contributions. Surely CRI would be able to collect the licences to issue a CD of the historic recordings of string quartets 3, 5 and 7 from Orion and Serenus as well as their own back catalogue.

Rob Barnett

Further details and copies of this limited edition set can obtained from:

The Karl Weigl Foundation
100 Shoreline Highway
Suite B325
Mill Valley
California 94941
phone +1 415 289 4505
fax +1 415 332 1807

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