Hans PFITZNER (1869-1949)
Violin Concerto in B minor, Op. 34 (1924) [32:43]
Siegfried WAGNER (1869-1930)
Violin Concerto with orchestral accompaniment (1915) [25:33]
Richard WAGNER (1813-1883)
Träume (Dreams)for Violin and Orchestra in A flat major (1857) [5:48]
Juraj Cizmarovic (violin)
WDR Radio Symphony Orchestra, Cologne/Marcus Bosch
rec. 15-18 September 2009 (Pfitzner) and 27-30 April 2009 (S. Wagner, R. Wagner), WDR, Klaus von Bismarck Saal, Cologne, Germany
After the Second World War the West German Radio Symphony Orchestra was founded in 1947 as one of a number of German orchestras that were formed or enlarged in an attempt to promote a revival in German cultural life. I have yet to see the orchestra in concert however I have been extremely impressed with their series of Shostakovich symphonies under Semyon Bychkov who was their chief conductor from 1997-2010.

The music of German late-Romantic composer Hans Pfitzner, with the exception of occasional revivals of his opera Palestrina or extracts from the opera, is rarely heard. Apart from Palestrina,Pfitzner’s Violin Concerto from 1924 is the score that has probably done the best in the recording studio. There are two recordings that are most likely to be encountered: Firstly from Gerhard Taschner with the RIAS Symphony Orchestra Berlin under Rudolf Kempe recorded live in 1955 and issued on both Archipel ARPCD 0400 and MDG Archive 642 1443-2. Secondly from Saschko Gawriloff with the Bamberg Symphony Orchestra under Werner Andreas Albert from 1989 on CPO 999 079-2.
Presented in three sections and played as a single movement the Pfitznerdates from 1924. The composer himself conducted the première in June 1924 at Nuremberg with the score’s dedicatee Alma Moodie the Australian violinist as soloist. Sitting firmly in the late-Romantic tradition the concerto yields generous rewards with repeated hearings and deserves to be programmed far more often in concert. Pfitzner certainly allows the violin soloist plenty of opportunity for display yet in a more subtle than flamboyant manner. A bold theme in short bursts opens the movement with a songlike and rambling second theme high on agitation using the extremes of the instrument’s range. A third theme, a combination of the first and second is presented as a set of variations then a lively and assertive cadenza for violin. Following on the extended closing passage for violin and orchestra considerable tension in generated before the music becomes calmer and then falls away to nothing. A steely beauty and uneasy calm pervades the idyllic slow movement where the solo violin remains silent throughout. The oboe plays an attractive solo both at the beginning of the movement and also at the conclusion with the strings and harp. An acerbic central section feels forlorn and distinctly introverted. Generally warm and sunny the mood of the final movement has been described as “Mediterranean”. In the opening of the final movement the violin soloist has an extended singing and yearning line infused with a sense of disconcertion. At 3:16 a delightful waltz-like orchestral passage of fairytale innocence is taken up by the violin at 3:52-5:25. At 7:08-8:54 the solo violin plays a long, soothing and appealing singing line. Despite rumbling interruptions from the orchestra the violin maintains its prominence reverting to a more lively and energetic approach. After a stormy interlude from the orchestra at 10:32-11:06 the carefree dance passage for the violin returns. I especially enjoyed the light-hearted dialogue with the horn at 13:45-14:10 and then with the trumpet at 14:10-14:20. Not surprisingly this attractive score ends on an upbeat note.
Few composers have had such an elevated music pedigree as Siegfried Wagner being the only son of Richard Wagner and Cosima von Bülow the daughter of Franz Liszt. Cosima was later to marry Wagner in 1870. Siegfried Wagner a pupil of Liszt and Engelbert Humperdinck is best known today for his work at Bayreuth. He served as the artistic director of the Bayreuth festival both conducting and producing until his death in 1930. I would suspect that most people remain unaware of Siegfried Wagner’s composing activities. However, he was a prolific composer of operas; eighteen according to Grove Music Online.
Siegfried Wagner’s Violin Concerto with orchestral accompaniment from 1915 presented here in two parts and referred to in the booklet notes as a symphonic poem is closely related to the music from his opera An Allem ist Hütchen Schuld! At times the solo violin part portrays the lovers Frieder and Katherlies from the opera. In the romantic and determined first part the solo violin is brooding and passionate over rich orchestral textures. I loved the fluttering birdcalls on the woodwind. In truth there is little eventful happening but the music is most appealing nevertheless. Attractive and melodic section two features lively and energetic playing from the soloist mainly in the high registers. Ominously at 1:56-4:24 the music takes on a darker quality. A new idea for orchestra at 5:36-7:50 contains a mysterious quality bordering on elfin mischievousness. The intense yearning quality develops to a passionate and wild climax at 9:59. Glowing and light-hearted the score ends on positive note.
Richard Wagner wrote Träume (Dreams) as a study to his great music-drama Tristan und Isolde. Träume is the final song from Wagner’s collection of five Wesendonck Lieder. These are settings of texts by Mathilde Wesendonck the wife of a wealthy patron. It is often asserted that Wagner had an affair with Mathilde. In any event Wagner was liberal with the amount of intense passion in his writing. Initially composed for female voice and piano Wagner thought enough of Träume to complete this arrangement for violin and small orchestra. The Wesendonck Lieder are often given in Felix Mottl’s arrangement for orchestra. In addition Hans Werner Henze made an arrangement for chamber orchestra. Träume opens in a delightful and moving manner with the solo violin waiting until 1:01 to enter. The intense passion of the music certainly feels as if it could have been the product of a love affair. It’s impressive how the violin maintains the gloriously shimmering flow of its melodic line.
Violin soloist Juraj Cizmarovic has found his perfect partner with the WDR Symphony Orchestra, Cologne under Marcus Bosch. Throughout the disc I was never aware of the soloist and the orchestra: I just heard the music such was the selfless nature of their playing. Principal concertmaster of the WDR Radio Orchestra since 2004 Cizmarovic intuitively knows his colleagues. Playing a glorious-sounding Nicolo Galliano (1761) instrument the expressive Cizmarovic is a sensitive and responsive soloist who is comfortable playing both brilliantly and extremely softly when appropriate. Recorded in what I assume to be studio conditions at the Klaus von Bismarck Saal in Cologne the sound quality is to a high standard being especially clear and well balanced. In a sturdy card cover the gatefold design includes helpful booklet notes.
This beautifully played and recorded disc from Coviello Classics is quite a discovery.
Michael Cookson 

Quite a discovery.