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Karl WEIGL (1881-1949)
Symphony No. 6 (1947) [39:01]
Old Vienna (1939) [19:48]
Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin/Thomas Sanderling (symphony); Alun Francis (Old Vienna)
rec. 20-24 Jan 2004, Jesus Christus Kirche, Berlin (Symphony; 6-7 Sept 2004, Haus des Rundfunks, Großer Sendesaal des RBB, Berlin. DDD
BIS-CD-1167 [59:42]
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The crossed paths of Hanns Eisler and Karl Weigl in the post-Great War Wiener Konservatorium Vienna tell us something about both composers. Weigl was the professor and Eisler the pupil. Both had Socialist beliefs. However Weiglís roots were struck deep into a lyrico-romantic heimat. Eisler was having none of it. Frustrated by his teacherís conservative teaching methods he jumped ship and joined the classes of a much more congenial teacher: Arnold Schoenberg.

Weiglís six symphonies are gradually emerging from oblivion. This is the second to appear. The first (No. 5) was also from Bis [review]

For Viennese-born Karl Weigl and his second wife Vally, the Anschlüss of 1938 was taken as the cue to leave their homeland and flee to America. He was 57 at the time and found the transition hard. Eventually he found a series of prestigious academic posts and these sustained him and his family. In parallel he continued to compose. The final two symphonies date from this time along with the last three string quartets.

The waltz and old Vienna certainly cast a spell over composers. The most famous being Ravelís La Valse but in addition there is Florent Schmittís Rhapsodie Viennoise, Korngoldís Straussiana and Richard Straussís Schlagobers. The waltzís enchantment cast over one and half centuries can be compared today with the magnetic draw of the Tango.

Old Vienna might perhaps be expected to have some of the lightness and diaphanous fabric of the South and there is some of that. Overall though this is a heavily lush waltz fantasy in the Teuton manner. Draughts of fresh night air are allowed in for hints of Tchaikovsky the ballet composer and of DvořŠk in dancingly Bohemian mode. Interestingly the writing lightens and becomes much more accentedly delicate towards the close; that is until Weigl dons the steel-clad boots once more for a thunderously roaring peroration and some heroically lofted horn climaxes.

There are some appositely atmospheric photographs of Weigl in the Alps, complete with alpenstock, rucksack and visionary expression, on the front and back of the insert booklet. This image seems specially suited to the four movement Sixth Symphony. This has a ruggedly Brucknerian accent mixed with the dark anterior world of Brahmsí First Symphony and the neurotic lyricism of Franz Schmidtís Second Symphony. The second movement has a hardness of heart and a Gothic singing quality recalling both Sukís Asrael Symphony and the weightiness of Elgarís Second Symphony. As with the Fifth Symphony, the Adagio carries the emotional burden with music of burning eloquence. There is a triumphant finale - far less equivocal in its glories than those of its predecessor.

There are other recordings worth seeking out:-
Piano Trio on Albany: [review]
Lieder and chamber music (including String Quartet 4) on KWF: [review]
String Quartets 1 and 5 Nimbus: [review]

As yet unreviewed (soon to be remedied) is the Orfeo CD of the Third Quartet.

Going back to the LP era there were albums including the Third Quartet played by the Chester Quartet on Stolat SZM 0121. The Seventh Quartet was on Serenus SRS 12093 played by the Brno Quartet. We now have the Arttis Quartet on Nimbus with string quartets 1 and 5 but long before that appeared the Iowa Quartet recorded Weiglís Fifth on CRI; as far as I know that tape never made its way on to CRI CD. Thereís a full discography at:

Off-air recordings also reveal the entertaining Piped Piper Suite (Dennis Russell Davies conducts the CBC Vancouver Symphony Orchestra ) and the Comedy Overture (Baton Rouge Symphony Orchestra conducted by Peter Paul Fuchs). The real prize is the Weigl Violin Concerto broadcast in 1966 by Sidney Harth with the Musica Aeterna Orchestra conducted by Frederic Waldman.

Weigl is a fascinating composer and there is much more to be discovered. I hope that Bis will now turn to the pre-American four symphonies and that the Arttis and Nimbus might be tempted to finish a cycle of all eight quartets.

Rob Barnett



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