Károly Goldmark fought on the losing (left-wing) side in the
Hungarian Revolution of 1848. He then began what was to be a
long and successful career in music. In his mid-teens, he changed
his first name to Carl. His early years were not auspicious;
he was one of twenty children of a notary and cantor in the
Hungarian village of Keszethy, and money was scarce. Nevertheless
his father scraped together enough for violin lessons in Sopron
and Vienna. After the Revolution, he returned to Vienna and
played violin in theatre orchestras. He learned composing and
orchestration by osmosis, declaring himself “completely self-taught”
in those fields.
Besides a bit of teaching and choral conducting, he secured
a job as a music critic. He distinguished himself by championing
both Wagner and Brahms when almost everyone else came down strongly
on one side or the other. He composed continuously through his
twenties so that he was able to put on a concert of his works
in 1858, to mixed critical response. His String Quartet (op.
8) of 1860 was well received.
He befriended Brahms and was made an honorary member of the
Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde in 1866. He was among the
group that founded the Akademischer Wagnerverein in Vienna
in 1872. The very successful opera, Die Königin von Saba
(The Queen of Sheba) was premiered in Vienna in 1875. It
then opened in New York (1885), Buenos Aires (1901) and was
performed continuously in Budapest until the 1930s. Goldmark
lived a long and respected life, capped off with an honorary
degree from Budapest University, and honorary membership in
the Accademia di Santa Cicilia in Rome, the latter
shared with Richard Strauss in the year before Goldmark died.
The feature piece on this recording, The Rustic Wedding Symphony
(Ländliche Hochzeit), was completed in 1876
and is a charming piece of program music. It has memorable tunes
in all five movements. The first is a Wedding March theme followed
by a dozen well crafted, Brahms-like variations. A beautiful
Bridal Song follows, then a scherzo-like Serenade. The fourth
movement, “In the Garden”, further shows off Goldmark’s melodic
and orchestration gifts. The final “Dance” movement evokes the
wedding guests frolicking, occasionally pausing to enjoy the
garden. The celebration and the symphony conclude in hurly-burly
Goldmark’s second of six published operas, Merlin (1886)
was composed to a libretto by Mahler’s mentor, Siegfried Lipiner,
and was a great success. Premiered in Vienna, it is, like Wagner’s
operas, “through-composed”, that is there are no spoken dialogues.
The Prelude on this recording introduces the musical themes,
and is most enjoyable on its own.
Philharmonie Festiva is an assembly of some of the best musicians
in the Munich area, and is built around a core from the Munich
Bach Soloists. The conductor, Gerd Schaller, is well known in
and beyond Germany. He brings out the rustic quality of this
music beautifully. The performance and recording are excellent.
This is a composer and symphony too long neglected. Buy this
recording for a pleasant experience.