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Felix WEINGARTNER (1863–1942)

String Quartets - Volume 1 

String Quartet No.1 in D minor, op.24 (1898) [37:45]

String Quartet No.3 in F, op.34 (1903) [30:48]

Sarastro Quartett (Ralph Orendain (violin); Roman Conrad (violin); Hanna Werner–Helfenstein (viola); Stefan Bracher (cello))

rec. 18-20 September 2006, Kirche Marthalen, Switzerland. DDD
CPO 7772512 [68:38] 


Experience Classicsonline

These days, Weingartner is better known as a conductor, the first to record a complete Beethoven symphony cycle, and the premi
ère interpreter of Bizet’s Symphony in C. Like Mahler, who was three years his senior - Weingartner was born in 1863 not 1893 as stated on the rear inlay – the correct date is given in the booklet - he wished to be seen as a composer who conducted. He studied with Swilhelm Meyer, who also taught Ferruccio Busoni, and with Liszt in Weimar. CPO has already recorded five volumes of Weingartner’s orchestral music and one of chamber works. 

The 1st Quartet is classical in feel, layout and outlook. The opening movement, a long Allegro moderato, is very Schubertian, even down to a recurring upward thrusting phrase which could have come directly from the Tod und das Mädchen Quartet. The second movement, although marked Adagio assai, contains scherzo episodes of almost Mendelssohnian lightness. The scherzo is a short, but heavy-handed dance and the finale returns to that land of Schubertian influence. Despite all this talk of classicism and Schubert the music is thickly textured and in a very rich late romantic vein. Oddly, I don’t find it emotional, nor does it engage me, but I know that it’s a well wrought piece and I shall revisit it for further study. 

The little (to quote from the booklet) 3rd Quartet is a more assured work. True, there’s still a lot of Schubert in it but there is also the feeling of an original voice at work. The first movement is dramatic and forthright, with a couple of good tunes and a satisfactory working out of the material. The middle of the three movements is a lightning scherzo, which displays even more of the composer’s own voice. The final movement starts with a very serious slow introduction – the only true slow music in the whole piece – which bursts into an energetic allegro giocoso. From a compositional point of view this is a big step for the composer from the 1st Quartet. It’s very well written, the textures not as thick as earlier, making for more transparency in the sound, and it’s quite enjoyable. However, as with the earlier work, the music, for all its charm, failed to involve me. 

The performances are as committed as one could hope for, and the recording, which places the players very far forward, although very bright leaves no space for a feeling of the room in which they were recorded. This is an interesting disk, to be sure, but be warned, Weingartner was no Mahler.

Bob Briggs

see also Review by Jens Laurson



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