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REVIEW Plain text for smartphones & printers


Carl Maria von WEBER (1786-1826)
Kampf und Sieg, Op.44 (1815) [33:51]
Symphony No.1, Op.19 (1807) [24:14]
Lisebeth Schmidt-Glanzel (soprano); Eva Fleischer (contralto); Gert Lutze (tenor); Hans Kramer (baritone)
Choir and Orchestra of Leipzig Radio /Herbert Kegel (Kampf und Sieg)
Leipzig Philharmonic Orchestra/Gerhard Pflüger (Symphony)
rec. c. 1954, Leipzig
Text in German

Fresh from the vaults of Urania come two recordings from mid-1950s Leipzig. This Weber diptych is certainly striking given the rarity value of his occasional cantata Kampf und Sieg written to celebrate victory in the Battle of Waterloo. It fits into the genre of the Battle Piece though Weber’s use of Johann Gottfried Wohlbrück’s text in the context of a cantata gives it a very personalised and individual slant. The martial elements, that were certainly a feature of orchestral and instrumental music previously, are certainly present here too but they are joined by a vocal quotient that inflates the battle theme yet further.

Though there are no notes in this restoration Forgotten Records has printed the text in German (only) and the music is fully tracked – an introduction followed by a succession of choruses, recitatives, a terzetto, a solo orchestral battle music scene and solo arias. The text is notably magnanimous, not at all cut-throat or bloodthirsty – though celebratory of the valorous Prussian contribution to victory at the battle.

33-minutes in this performance fly by. The Introduction is vivid, dramatic and appositely urgent, though Urania’s recording doesn’t flatter the Leipzig Radio Orchestra’s string section. The solo singers are a sonorous bunch – baritone Hans Kramer especially, even though he’s not always steady. The terzetto is well-balanced, the chorus focused and well placed in the balance. The winds are especially pleasing and characterful – the piccolo and percussion accompanying the Prussian infantry are especially vibrant, though the differentiation of the various elements of the army is also ingenious with some more stolid or saucy than others. Weber draws on his theatrical prowess for the battle scene but the chorus depicting the combatants of both sides is equally stirring and overtly quasi-operatic.

The obvious contemporary analogy is Beethoven’s Wellington's Victory. Of the two, Beethoven lauds Wellington whilst Weber, through Wohlbrück, salutes Blücher – though not by name. The apportioning of the spoils of victory is balanced and just. Weber’s occasional work probably deserves more than a very occasional hearing. Allowing for a few rough edges Herbert Kegel’s Leipzig performance, despite its age, is appropriately robust and intense.

In the companion work the Leipzig Philharmonic Orchestra is directed by Gerhard Pflüger in the Symphony No.1 of 1807. The recording is certainly brash and there’s a mighty echo after some tuttis but Pflüger, who is not much recalled these days, directs with plenty of robust no-nonsense directness. He also has the measure of Weber’s dramatic scheme in this taut work, bringing out the lyricism as well as the operatic drive with surety.

I’m not sure what the market is for a rarity such as this but I can say with confidence that the transfer is highly accomplished.

Jonathan Woolf



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