This trio of discs is the only full recording of the
symphonies and is a joint international release by DaCapo and Marco
Polo from an earlier sponsored Danish release (1994).
Weyse follows the traditions of the early German school
both in structure and orchestration and in listening to each work one
can be forgiven thinking one is listening to Haydn. His scores confirm
that he was very knowledgeable of the music of the German masters. The
composer’s background, given in considerable detail in the CD booklet
by Carsten E. Hatting, explains why this is so:
Christoph Weyse was born on March 5, 1774 in
Altona in Holstein, Denmark where he learnt singing, keyboard, and violin
in the shadow of nearby Hamburg, where C.P.E. Bach was the Municipal
Director of Music. Through the goodwill of Professor C.F. Cramer of
Kiel he was apprenticed to the court composer in Denmark, L.A.P. Schulz,
who had himself been called from Berlin to Copenhagen a few years earlier.
Weyse went to Copenhagen in 1789 as a teenager to study with Schulz
,and at first lived in Schulz's home where he studied keyboard, violin,
and composition. It was not long before he began to function as a professional
musician, taking up the organ, and practising in the Yor Frelsers Church
where H.O.C. Zinck was organist. Then in 1792 Schulz helped the eighteen
year old Weyse to get a position as assistant organist at the Calvinist
Reformed Church. From this period a number of compositions are preserved
in two volumes of Jugendarbeiten dated 1790-94: these are piano
pieces and short songs with German text in the style of Schulz's Lieder
Weyse wrote his seven symphonies in rapid succession
in the years 1795-99, perhaps for the Music Performing Society, but
strangely enough he never returned to the genre. An unhappy love affair
with Julie Tutein, daughter of a Copenhagen businessman, affected him
so badly that he wrote no music in the period from 1801 to 1807. (This
pause in his composing career drew him down new paths for he began to
write theatre music that would appeal to a wider audience.) All the
same, Weyse did not forget his symphonies. His various revisions of
the scores show that they must have been revived from time to time.
Fr. Kuhlau, who came to Copenhagen at the end of 1810, wrote a letter
the following year to the Leipzig publisher, G.C. Härtel in which
he describes the concert repertoire in Copenhagen and says that "one
of the symphonies of Weyse, who is a more original composer, can be
heard from time to time - some of his beautiful and effective symphonies
have not yet been printed".
Two symphonies did see the light of day, for, around
1800, Weyse's patron, the wealthy merchant Constantin Brun, paid for
the music engraver Sonne in Copenhagen to print the Sixth Symphony in
C minor. A few years later the Seventh in E flat major was printed in
Vienna by the Bureau d’Arts et d'Industrie.
Weyse later made use of his symphonies in other ways,
adapting them when he needed an overture or incidental music to a production
at the Royal Theatre. As early as 1800-01 he based the overture to The
Sleeping Draught on the final movement of his own Second Symphony,
and in 1817 the Fourth Symphony was reused for Shakespeare's Macbeth,
(one of the earliest manifestations of interest in the English playwright
in Denmark). Finally, the First Symphony was played in connection with
an admittedly not very successful revival of Johannes Ewald's Death
of Baldur in 1832. The Music Society which was founded on Weyse's
birthday in 1836 and quickly evolved into a concert society, also promoted
a couple of performances in 1839 of the Fifth Symphony (extensively
revised for the occasion) and the Seventh was likewise revived about
six months prior to the composer's death in 1842. After that time the
symphonies of Weyse rarely appeared on concert programmes.
In Weyse's symphonies, the scoring would be for the
typical court (chamber) orchestra, modest by comparison with the modern
symphony orchestra we hear in this recording. We are told that, originally,
he used one or two flutes, two oboes, two bassoons, two horns and a
four or five-part string ensemble. He added two trumpets and timpani
from the Second Symphony onwards. This was the size of orchestra that
Haydn and Mozart mainly wrote for. In the slow movement of the Fourth
Symphony he introduces a single clarinet. This was still a relatively
new instrument and not yet in general use, but the Royal Danish Orchestra
would have had instrumentalists who could play it (or the slightly deeper
basset horn) as far back as the 1770s. Weyse was able to obtain a clarinettist
in 1795, but it is perhaps significant that he does not really exploit
the instrument soloistically in this Largo, contenting himself with
using it to intensify and give colour to the sound of the other winds.
Some decades later the situation had changed, so that Weyse was able
to add two clarinets and a trombone when he revised his Fifth Symphony
The first three symphonies are generally characterised
by a sedateness and robustness in mechanical composition, but which
seems to suppress the free-flow of romantic ideas.
Symphony No. 1 in G minor, DF 117 (1795, revd.
Unusually, this first symphony was written in a minor
key. Most symphonies from the late eighteenth century were written in
major keys. Major tonality certainly dominates the symphonic output
of Haydn and Mozart. As long as symphonies were only used as introductions
and conclusions to the various sections of a concert - i.e. as a kind
of framework surrounding a performance by soloists - a cheerful and
lightweight type of music was thought most suitable. Yet minor keys
provide better opportunities for delicate and expressive harmony. Therefore
his feeling for tonality here may have come from a familiarity with
the style of C.P.E. Bach.
The first movement, Allegro con spirito, opens
with a tripping rhythmic principal theme that at once establishes the
serious minor-key mood. There is alternation between energetic rhythms
and more relaxed figures as the music undergoes a series of quite violent
modulations before the winds bring us back to a reprise.
The second movement, an engaging Minuetto, provides
examples of Weyse's feeling for tonal and melodic tension and includes
a touch of drama. The trio, in which the winds play a singable melody
to string accompaniment, is elegant and relaxed.
A slow and dreamy third movement, Andante, contains
an early instance of the 'romance tone' which we are told was to become
a hallmark of Weyse's songs with piano some years later, and includes
four variations on the theme, before the movement is rounded off by
An energetic finale, Vivace, begins in lighthearted
vein, but the minor-key atmosphere is not entirely lost. There seems
to be a lack of purpose and the initial theme is over-worked. Before
the end of the reprise, contact is re-established with the serious mood
of the first movement.
Weyse revised this symphony in 1805, presumably for
a concert performance and it is the latter version heard on this CD.
He used it again in 1832 as a substitute for Hartmann's original music
from 1779 for the play The Death of Baldur by Johannes Ewald,
the first and last movements being exploited as overtures to the first
and third Acts, with the third movement as interlude music.
Symphony No. 2 in C major, DF 118 (1795, revd.
The orchestra here is larger than that used in the
First Symphony only three months earlier. An extra flute has been added,
as well as two trumpets (clarini) and timpani. Weyse's early style is
audible in the solid scoring and dynamic contrasts.
The first movement is a traditional Allegro con
brio in 3/4 time, opening with a prominent fanfare theme that establishes
the basic key of C major. A secondary charming theme is introduced which
is more melodic. Lively modulations occur, but we never move far from
C major so that the restoration of tonal balance seems effortless.
A slow and relaxing Adagio movement uses a theme
reminiscent of Gluckian tranquillity which undergoes a series of variations.
In one of the variations the theme is embellished by imitations of a
little figure tossed from instrument to instrument before a final variation
(in F minor) uses the full orchestra. A bridge passage brings us back
to F major and the horns now provide the main theme to carry us to the
A stately and dignified Minuetto with accompanying
trio shows Weyse defying convention. (He almost outdoes Haydn in metrical
and rhythmic irregularities.)
The lively Finale hints at Weyse's knowledge
of the Viennese classical masters and provides a freshness of mood to
the symphony with rapid modulations and plenty of polyphony. A short
coda provides an opportunity to restate the main theme for a final time.
Try tk 8 to get a flavour of Weyse’s most inventive style. Weyse revised
the finale as an overture to his opera, The Sleeping Draught
to which, in character, it is ideally suited.
Symphony No. 3 in D major, DF 119 (1795, rev. 1800)
The orchestra here is almost the same as in the previous
symphony, though Weyse apparently again had only one flute at his disposal.
The first movement, Allegro con brio, in a sonorous
D major and quadruple time is full of ardour, with a contrast provided
between the principal and secondary themes. The former is energetic
and powerful, the latter gentle and characterized by a clear division
between winds and strings. In two places, Weyse surprises us with ingenious
rhythmic effects. These, like the carefully calculated modulation patterns
throughout the movement make one think of Haydn.
An Andante maestoso follows in a quite different
mood. The key changes from D major to D minor and the full orchestra
sets in with majestic rhythms, strongly underlined by prominent, serious
figures in the bass. In a middle section Weyse reverts to the major
key and creates an effective contrast of sound by letting the woodwinds
lead off in a five-part texture, while the strings and brass outline
the contours of the form.
The Minuetto likewise alternates between major
and minor, with D minor again being chosen for the trio section. In
this movement one is conscious of some metrical cleverness which again
hints at Haydn. In the trio, Weyse uses his inventiveness where the
winds begin playing the melody in double unison with pizzicato accompaniment
in the strings. This melody begins with the same striking intervals
as the bass theme of the slow movement, which is Weyse's unusual way
of linking the Minuet to the majestic Andante and preventing the strong
contrast between the first two movements from being weakened.
The festive atmosphere flows through the Allegretto
finale which begins with a fresh theme, full of witty surprises –rhythmic,
metrical, harmonic and melodic. A light and cheerful start makes one
expect a rondo, but the movement turns out to be in clearly structured
Weyse notes in the score that this symphony was written
in September 1795 and was revised in November 1800, presumably for a
new performance. It is this revised form that we hear.
In these first three symphonies, the scoring is light
and although soundly written generally tends to lack any strong feeling
Symphonies 4 & 5 are characterised by a more relaxed,
lighter approach to composition where a certain inventiveness and flow
makes them particularly appealing.
Symphony no. 4 in E minor, DF 120 (1795)
Weyse begins his opening movement with a majestic Grave,
which prepares for the quick main section of the movement, an energetic
Allegro full of rhythmic energy. Though all the thematic ideas
are exploited in the succeeding, tonally more varied, sections of the
movement, the main theme is always present. In the reprise the minor
key tonality momentarily gives way to a statement of the subsidiary
theme in E major, but otherwise a feeling of intense seriousness prevails
throughout the movement.
The Largo is in sonata form, with an elegiac
beginning that sounds Mozartian. A subsidiary theme is far more dramatic
in character. The orchestral tutti and the rapid figures in the strings
bring to mind the slow introduction to the symphony. At the peaceful
conclusion of the movement the winds have almost entirely taken the
A Minuetto, begins gravely, with emphasis on
the minor key tonality; here Weyse employs an introductory figure that
is suitable for later polyphonic treatment. In contrast the trio in
E major is gracious and elegant. Here, for just a moment, the music
lightens. (Try the haunting theme tk 3 at 2’36" with unusual paralleling
of string/wind sections with elegant bridges provided by the brass.)
In the finale, Allegro moderato con energia,
Weyse displays his contrapuntal mastery. An initial theme with a downward-moving
melody followed by orchestral tutti provides only a brief introduction;
then an energetic upward-moving melody gives way to a longer downward
melody introduced by the cellos. Weyse works with three themes, incorporating
the initial theme into a monumental triple fugue, while constantly shifting
key. In the manner of Haydn the reprise insists on going its own way
with new combinations.
Symphony no. 5 in E flat major, DF 121 (1796, revd.
Of the seven symphonies this, to me, stands out as
being the most special since it is written with true feeling, inventiveness
and colourful orchestration. His mechanical approach to composition
is gone and the work flows freely. Weyse refers to this symphony as
‘completely refurbished’ for it was extensively revised after forty
years. It is the later revised version that we hear on this recording.
For his revised edition we are told that Weyse reinforced the instrumentation
by adding two clarinets and a trombone, and also making major alterations
to the music of all movements. The original third movement, Minuetto,
had been rejected altogether and replaced by the Minuet from
the First Symphony, also in the same key. In fact, the first movement
has been lengthened, the second shortened, and the final movement bears
little resemblance to the original. (Try tk 5.)
The Maestoso - Allegro con brio opens in an
atmosphere of majestic dignity, with powerful orchestral chord tutti
and stately dotted rhythms. This leads into an energetic, triad-based
theme in sweeping 3/4 time that begins an Allegro section. A basic E
flat tonality is established, and after a third tutti entry moves towards
a contrasting key of B flat major. After a reprise Weyse adds a coda
again based on the main theme, thus bringing this impressive movement
Dignity is also characteristic of the second movement,
Andante in B flat major, which like the first movement is in
sonata. A solo violin adds, through its dialogue with the orchestra,
a dramatic element. The music does not evolve into a concertante movement
in the strict sense, much less into a violin concerto, but the soloist
plays an increasingly prominent role.
Weyse made a good choice in transferring his First
Symphony’s Minuet to this new context; one almost senses his
pleasure in re-scoring it for a larger orchestra. The gentle tones of
the clarinets in the trio section underline the change in ideals of
sound that had taken place over the four decades before its revision.
(The brisk pace suits the symphony’s character and one wonders whether
the Minuets in some of the other symphonies would have been better taken
The finale, Allegro con spirito, is also full
of polyphonic fireworks and nice invention. It begins with powerful
chords and a triad motif. This introduction then gives way to a fully-fledged
fugue on a new theme, still in E flat major (but a rapid transition
to B flat major shows that the movement is actually in sonata form).
Weyse combines two themes and new motifs emerge, adding extra zest to
the music, until the exposition reaches an unexpectedly subdued conclusion.
This provides a brief respite before exploding into a storm of modulations
break out. The coda then provides a secure conclusion to this marvellous
In these, Weyse’s last symphonies he seems to revert
to the staid style of his early symphonies although inventive ideas
do creep in from time to time. Could it be that inspiration was on the
wane because his love life was by now starting to show cracks?
Symphony no. 6 in C minor, DF 122 (1798, rev. ca. 1800)
Weyse wanted to hear what his former teacher, Schulz,
thought of the new work. Schulz had retired in 1795 from his position
as royal chapelmaster and was now living in Northern Germany. But he
saw the Sixth Symphony, and his evaluation of it is extant in a letter
to Weyse. Here the older man carefully apportioned praise and criticism,
pointing out with precision those passages where he found the instrumentation
too heavy. Weyse accepted the advice and lightened the texture, as we
can see from his corrections in the autograph score at the Royal Library
in Copenhagen and from the printed orchestral parts.
In this work Weyse again chooses a minor key as his
tonal centre. In his musical idiom this implies gravity of expression
and ample opportunities for modulation, as is heard already in the majestic
introduction to the first movement, Maestoso - Allegro con brio.
It opens with upward-moving scales, after which a number of short motifs
in dotted rhythms are introduced in the bass. The violins carry an energetic
main theme forward to a subsidiary theme with dialogue between oboes/strings
and flutes/bassoons. Later, the same themes and formal elements appear,
but with motifs in new combinations giving an even greater emphasis
to the dotted rhythms.
The Largo begins with a horn solo accompanied
by low strings. The rest of the instruments enter gradually, and in
the melody played by the violins one senses a new flexibility implying
the influence of Mozart - an impression strengthened by the melodic
chromaticism of the strongly contrasting section that rounds off the
exposition. The reprise brings back the introductory horn solo.
The third movement, Minuetto, is stately and
dignified. The dotted rhythms of the first movement now return, alternating
with downward-moving melodies in the strings and concise marking of
the cadences. In the trio the winds take the lead with colourful sounds
above the gentle accompanying figures in the strings. The pace, unless
metronomically marked as such, is pedantic and makes the movement lack
The finale, Vivace, in C major displays a rich
variety of musical ideas. Its lively main theme with rapidly moving
accompaniment in the deep strings already demonstrates Weyse's mastery
of the special kind of classical polyphony that depends for its effect
on the combination of motifs in different rhythms. To this he adds dynamic
contrasts and harmonic surprises (leaps to unexpected keys). The weight
and fullness of this finale provide a fine balance with the opening
movement and furnish an imposing conclusion to this great symphony.
Symphony no. 7 in E flat major, DF 123 (1799)
In this work Weyse continues to experiment with orchestral
effects, particularly in the second movement. The energetic finale confirms
that Weyse has not only mastery of compositional skills but also the
inspirational flow to complete the work. Weyse's last symphony is strikingly
simple and assured as compared with its predecessors. There are no signs
of a desire to experiment with form or to struggle with complex counterpoint.
Gone are the external signs of the composer battling with his material.
By this time, we are told, Weyse's fame had reached Vienna where the
symphony was printed, probably in 1803.
An Allegro begins with a lyrical and singable
theme in 3/4 time for the string section. A contrasting section for
full orchestra leads into the dominant key of B flat major, the strings
introducing a secondary theme every bit as tranquil and amiable as the
first, and for a while the woodwinds take over and round off this theme.
Then a string postlude almost brings the music to a standstill, until
a sudden entry for the full orchestra gets it under way again and the
exposition ends with a marked cadence. The secondary theme is introduced
by the horn, emphasizing the contrast between the principal theme in
the strings and a secondary theme in the winds.
The second movement, Andante, provides a set
of variations in B flat major on a stately opening theme. A lovely oboe
solo runs through the fourth variation before the movement is rounded
off by a double variation and a coda where the flute and bassoon momentarily
have the stage almost to themselves. This is an effective movement,
full of ‘modern’ orchestral colour.
A lilting third movement, Minuetto, reveals
a study of the orchestration of Haydn's and Mozart's symphonies. He
shifts effortlessly from tutti effects to smaller combinations of strings
and wind instruments, and varies the transitions from the one to the
other in a charmingly natural way, but in the composition Weyse holds
to an earlier style.
An inventive and lively dance theme introduces the
finale, Allegro, which provides a sense of constant motion to
the movement as a whole. Like many of Haydn's finales it combines sonata
and rondo features, and Weyse makes room for learned polyphony as well
as playful humour before he brings it to a conclusion. Sample this enjoyable
movement (tk 8). It is the only symphony the composer never revised.
The splendid Royal Danish Orchestra has some 75 players,
a force considerably stronger than the court and chamber orchestras
for which Weyse would have composed. However, I should have welcomed
more gusto to emphasise certain phrases to add more colour whether or
not accurate dynamics are shown in the score. The acoustics are ideally
suited to this period and the playing superbly executed by the large
orchestra. Schønwandt has clearly made a good study of the material
which he is likely to have known well for he made his debut at Tivoli,
Denmark in 1977. He has a reputation as a touring international conductor
who has a close relationship with Danish music. In 1992 he became chief
conductor of the Berlin Symphony Orchestra and became associated with
All praise to DaCapo for bringing out a sequence of
recordings of rarely heard works of Weyse in 1995, and for recognising
the importance of their heritage in past composers. One would have welcomed
at least a generous second’s pause between tracks: the finales often
come in somewhat hastily. Each CD carries a good booklet, which includes
very detailed notes in English by Carsten Hatting.
The discs are sold separately.