Classical Editor: Rob Barnett                               Founder Len Mullenger:

Richard WETZ (1875-1935)
Symphony No. 3 (1920-22)
Symphonisches Orchester/Erich Peter
rec Jesus-Christus-Kirche, Berlin-Dahlem, 28-31 Aug 1981, RIAS, Berlin DDD
originally issued on an Ars Musici LP in the early 1980s
Deutscher Romantiker series vol. 1
STERLING CDS-1041-2 [58.46]


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Bo Hyttner's steadfast dedication has borne fruit in one of the most polished and discerning of catalogues primarily centring on his native Swedish romantics but also branching outwards towards Swiss and now German branches of the great tradition.

Wetz was born into comfortable but quite unmusical surrounding in Upper Silesia in 1875. In 1897 he entered the Leipzig Conservatorium where he was taught by Jadassohn and Reinecke. Ludwig Thuille (whose 1886 symphony and 1901 piano quintet should be worth a look) taught him in Munich. Weingartner became one of Wetz's leading protagonists. Attempts to find a career niche in the German theatre system miscarried. With 100 or so lieder to his name Wetz produced two operas to his own libretti: Judith and The Eternal Fire. The Erfurt Music Academy and Musikverein appointed him Director and there he stayed 1906-1925 reviving rare works by Liszt and Draeseke amongst many others. At the age of 40, like Bruckner, he embarked on the first of his three symphonies. The first was written in 1917, the second, 1920 and the third in 1923. He also wrote books on Bruckner, Liszt and Beethoven. There are two string quartets that should be worth appraisal. His musical education had not exposed him to outrageous influences from Scandinavia or France and he remained a determined exponent of the high Teutonic romance.

The Third Symphony has the necessary tension and foreboding to hold attention though 'architecturally' it tend to sprawl. Impressions that remained include a style close to Bruckner and Schumann and a delightful way with pizzicato technique. The epic rolling romantic swell of (18.15) the opening langsam is followed by the toiling intensity and the louring soliloquising of the second movement. There is magic here as in the whispering slow snowy drifts of the last few minutes of the sehr langsam - strings against French horn.

Erich Peter's strings, though by no means strangulated or chaotic, lack the luxury and plushness that would have given the first two movements a real 'following wind'. The glimmering scherzo is not entirely a delicate cross-play though Wetz contrives many lucid 'supernatural' effects in rustic Mahlerian Ländler style. There are moments here that closely recall the Franz Schmidt Hussar Song Variations. From the same era comes the bel canto lyrical inspirations of Joseph Marx in his Natur-trilogie and Herbstsymphonie (surely 'naturals' for Sterling) and Rued Langgaard's grandiloquent Schumann-re-flowering symphonies. The scherzo reminded me of Siegfried Wagner (see CPO series). The light-hearted merry-go-round is left behind in the finale for the long yearning lines explored in the first two movements. This is no lilting showcase - its concerns and motive force are serious. Rachmaninov's Second Symphony and Haakon Børresen's Second and Third all have their similarities with this music but time and again it is the grim Brucknerian set to the jaw that asserts its spell over the music. The 'last great German symphony' claims the notes? Well …not quite but … without doubt this is an ambitious statement in the German romantic tradition - confident, sturdy and resolute.

I am not familiar with the name of this orchestra. Was this a specially formed orchestra rather like Wyn Morris's Symphonica of London for those Delysée LPs of Mahler symphonies and Sidney Sax's National Philharmonic for the RCA Classic Film Music series. Unanimity and refinement of string tone are not consistently perfect but the results certainly excel serviceable. There is a sense of missionary occasion about those three session days in a Berlin church during the summer of 1981. The odd creak and extraneous noise somehow intensifies the experience of discovery.

Excellent notes by Wolfgang Gottschalk in German, English and French. There are 12 music exx.

The other two WETZ symphonies are there for the hearing on CPO. It is typical of Sterling's enlightened and unselfish attitude that the booklet carries details of the first and second symphonies available on CPO.

Enthusiasts step forward. What next? Can we hope for the complete symphonies of Draeseke, Thuille's symphony, Marx's Castelli, Herbst-Symphonie and Naturtrilogie (urgent imperatives every one), August Bungert's operatic tetralogy 'Homerische Welt' and his symphony 'Die Erstes Fahrt Zeppelin'. The German-speaking tradition has hardly been scratched.

Rejoice for now in another gold-liveried addition to the Sterling stable.

Rob Barnett


WETZ Symphony No. 1

Cracow PO/Roland Bader

CPO 999 272-2 DDD 1994

WETZ Symphony No. 2

Staatsphilharmonie Rheinland-Pfalz/Werner Andreas Albert

CPO 999 695-2 DDD 1999 review

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