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Woldemar BARGIEL (1828-1897)
Sinfonia in C für Orchester Op.30 (1880) [31:36]
Overture zu Medea für großes Orchester, Op.22 (1861) [10:38]
Intermezzo für Orchester Op.46 (1880) [7:02]
Overture zu einem Trauenspiel für großes Orchester, Op.18 (1859) [14:54]
Orquesta Sinfonica de San Luis Potosi/Jose Miramoutes Zapata
rec. 27-29 June 2014, Teatro de la Paz, San Luis Potosí, Mexico
STERLING CDS1105-2 [64:14]

Berlin-born Woldemar Bargiel was half-brother to Clara Schumann, who promoted Bargiel to Robert Schumann and to Felix Mendelssohn. As a teenager Bargiel studied at the Leipzig Conservatory with Rietz, Moscheles, and Gade. Having various teaching posts in Cologne and Rotterdam in his CV, he eventually put down academic roots at Berlin's distinguished Hochschule für Musik. His pupils there included Leopold Godowsky and Paul Juon, whose two early symphonies have been recorded and issued by Sterling (CDS 1103-2 and CDS 1104-2).

We should note that Bargiel by no means was a profusely creative composer. His short work-list includes four string quartets, a string octet (perhaps inspired by Mendelssohn), three piano trios and choral psalms, alongside the orchestral works included on this disc and on another (which I have not heard) from Toccata. The latter derives from sessions with the Siberian SO in Omsk and includes two other works, taking the time complement to 76:02. Sterling, having made recordings of two Mexican Romantics (Ponce and Castro) with the San Luis Potosí orchestra, enlisted its services for this Bargiel volume. Sadly there is significant duplication between the two discs: the Sinfonia and the Medea overture.

The Sinfonia in C is in four movements and was dedicated to Joseph Joachim. Its thunder and lightning finds uncanny parallels with the world and detail of Beethoven's Third and Fifth symphonies. The Mexican orchestra is not found wanting in any respect, whether in the tempests of the outer movements, in the peaceful groves of the Andante con moto - Molto tranquillo or in the Haydnesque tribute that is the Menuett. The finale again pays court to Beethoven but also sports something of the galloping confidence of the last movement of Mendelssohn's Third Symphony.

The Overture zu Medea, inspired by Euripides's tragedy, presents a properly tense and even sour introduction. The movement then proceeds to a suavely melodic second section. It is reminiscent of Mendelssohn's concert overtures and like Ruy Blas has a groaningly portentous element, which in this case closes the work. The Intermezzo Op.46 is a warmly glowing processional without any portents of tragedy. The Overture zu einem Trauenspiel was inspired by Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet". The music muses but the smooth surface is ruffled by darker presentiments before (6:44) presenting a tenderness apt to the subject of the young lovers. At 8:00 there is an onset of emotional turbulence. Again the idiom remains related to that of mature Mendelssohn and Beethoven. It ends in peace without the dark emotional eddies that stirred the music at the start.

The recording presents a strong profile throughout. While letting in the light, it is not what you would call transparent. The latter quality is not paramount anyway with music of this caste, which presents a staunch and yeoman sturdy late-romantic texture and image.

Unlike the Ponce and Castro discs, these recordings were made in studio conditions with no audience present. Accordingly the listener is spared applause at the end of works.

The four page liner-note is by Vanessa and Angel Augusto Ramírez Zarco. It is in Spanish with an English translation.

Bargiel, a very rare bird, here has his music convincingly done, well supported and very decently recorded.

Rob Barnett



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