Original Music by Legendary Conductors
(1897-1970) Variations on an Original Theme Op. 4 (1915) [14:20]
Robert HEGER (1886-1978) Verdi Variations Op. 23 (1933) [22:03]
Hans von BÜLOW (1830-1894) Nirwana - orchestral fantasy in overture form Op. 20 (1854-66) [18:50]
Felix WEINGARTNER (1863-1942) Lustige Overture Op. 53 (1912) [11:26]
National Philharmonic of Lithuania/Leon Botstein
rec. 2000, Vilnius, Lithuania. DDD
ARABESQUE Z6752 [67:22]
The Szell Variations on an Original Theme (1915) are strong on balletic charm. There is a theme and eleven variations, all in a Reger-lite style that reminded me of the innocence of Siegfried Wagner's tone poems. There's a dash of Richard Strauss here (tr. 3) and a splash of Tchaikovskiana there (tr. 8). The orchestration is clean and clear.
Robert Heger wrote his Verdi Variations in 1933. These take as their theme the aria E scherzo od e follia from Verdi's Un Ballo in Maschera. There's the theme, seven variations and a finale. This is a weightier work than the Szell with something of the romantic density of Franz Schmidt's Husarenlied Variations. We also encounter some episodes of intense darkness and nightingale cantilena as in the Lento melancolico (tr. 18). These variations take themselves extremely seriously from time to time. This is at odds with the playful lyricism of the theme. Not wholly successful as a work but plenty here to fascinate.
After two sets of Variations comes the 'orchestral fantasy in overture form' Nirwana by Hans von Bülow. The work, which was greatly admired by Richard Strauss, was written between 1854 and 1866. The title is a reference to the work of Artur Schopenhauer and the mood can be linked with Wagner whom von Bülow revered and whose Tristan von Bülow had conducted at its Munich premiere in 1858. Its sound-world variously recalls Brahms’ Tragic Overture and First Symphony. It makes for a rather meandering and brooding piece of tempestuous Lisztian romanticism.
Felix Weingartner has benefited from the CPO project to record all his symphonies (review, review, review). This overture has been included in that series. The Lustige Overture (1912) is richly orchestrated but often displays a dancing lightness which looks towards Vienna's dance floors while tapping into Magyar energy.
The National Philharmonic of Lithuania under the ever-questing and inspiriting baton of Leon Botstein are well up the advocacy required to make these works sing anew.
Rob Barnett
The ever-questing and inspiriting Botstein makes these works sing anew.