This fourth CD sees
CPO and Rabl completing their cycle
of recordings of the nine Wellesz symphonies.
It's a vast journey from Schubertian
consonance to forbidding dissonance.
In a year or two I am sure CPO will
issue them as a set as they have with
Frankel and Atterburg.
The other discs are:-
Symphonies 2, 9 CPO 999 997-2 review
by Lewis Foreman
Symphonies 4, 6, 7 CPO 999 808-2
review by John France
Symphonies 1, 8 CPO 999 998-2 review
by Rob Barnett
Viennese Wellesz was
born into an affluent Jewish family
and had every expectation of a brilliant
musical career in his home city. However
events in Germany were to end all that.
There was no place for him in Hitler's
Greater Reich. He fled to England.
The first five symphonies
proclaim their roots in the great Germanic
symphonic tradition with frank linkages
to Schubert, Bruckner and Mahler increasingly
viewed through Schoenberg's 12-tone
The Symphony No. 3
was started one year after completion
of the Second and was not premiered
until 2002. It is a work of his British
years. The music has little in the way
of surface attraction - no easy victories.
There is a Brahmsian sobriety about
this and the first movement is like
a Bach organ work transcribed by Schoenberg.
The second is more ingratiating but
rises to a Brucknerian gravity of expression.
The scherzo third movement skips along
almost nonchalantly with Brucknerian
references peeping through the barlines
... and the sun is shining. A contented
gift of a melody plays the feminine
counter to a daring masculine figure
recalling the Bruckner symphonies 3
and 4. The finale has Protestant sobriety
and downbeat as if wanting to put behind
it the ‘indecency’ of the two central
movements. I must not overdo the Schoenberg
voice but certainly the music does betray
a free approach to tonality. The symphony
ends with a typically terse Brucknerian
Four years later comes
the Fifth Symphony with a similar palette
and style book as the Third. Again the
four movements are desperately serious
with strong tribute presented to the
Schoenberg camp. They only lack the
contrast of the central movements of
the Third. Counterpoint and fugue thread
their way through this work of North
German sobriety a mood emphasised by
the work's centre of gravity in the
adagio molto III. It smiles of
course but relentlessly. Solo voices,
woodwind and violin, float free but
the language is always occluded and
soaked in the 12-tone argot. Intriguingly
the finale with its pummelling bass-heavy
sound is topped off by shrieking trumpets
in contrast to all that has gone before.
It ends with an emphatic angry growl.
Rabl gives a masterfully intense performance
- deeply impressive. Trudging, violent,
turbulent, and unforgiving, there is
even majesty of sorts - an awe-struck
Two deeply serious
Germanic symphonies touched to varying
degrees by the influence of Schoenberg.
see also review
by John France