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Ignatz WAGHALTER (1881-1949)
Violin Concerto, Op. 15 (1911) † [21:29]
Rhapsodie for violin and orchestra, Op. 9 (1906) † [11:14]
Violin Sonata in F minor, Op. 5 (1902) [19:55]
Idyll for violin and piano, Op. 19b [3:39]
Geständnis (Confession) for violin and piano [3:16]
Irmina Trynkos (violin); Giorgi Latsabidze (piano)
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra/Alexander Walker
rec. Henry Wood Hall, London, UK, 1 October 2010; 15-16 March 2011 (Concerto; Rhapsodie). DDD
† première recordings
NAXOS 8.572809 [59:33]

Mandragola – Opera (Overture and Intermezzo) (1914) [7:17]
New World Suite (reconstructed by Alexander Walker) (1939/2013) [35:55]
Masaryk’s Peace March (1935) [10:22]
New Russia State Symphony Orchestra/Alexander Walker
rec. Studio 5, Russian State TV and Radio Company Kultura, Moscow, 14-17 November 2013
Booklet notes in English
Première recordings
NAXOS 8.573338 [53:36]

Who was Ignatz Waghalter? He was born in Warsaw into a musically sympathetic family. The Waghalters were of very modest means but Ignatz was still able to study with Scharwenka and Gernsheim in Berlin. As a conductor his first engagements were under the aegis of Nikisch. In 1912 he was appointed music director to Berlin's new Deutsches Opernhaus in Charlottenburg. It seems he was an advocate for Puccini and in 1913 gave the German premiere of La fanciulla del West at which there were seventy curtain calls for Waghalter and the composer. During these years he wrote four of his own operas. The worldwide Crash saw the bankruptcy of the Deutsches Opernhaus and Waghalter needed to find new gainful employment. He had a brief spell in New York conducting the State Symphony Orchestra; later to be merged with the NYPO. At this time he met Irving Berlin, Jerome Kern and George Gershwin. Returning to Berlin, he turned to writing operettas and working as General Musical Director of UFA. The early 1930s saw him in various opera director posts at the Bolshoi and in Riga. In 1934 he took refuge from the Nazi ascendancy in Czechoslovakia. After less than a year in Vienna, in 1937, he and his family embarked for New York. There he founded the “American Negro Orchestra” not that it was welcomed by the generality New York's concertgoers; it did not last long. Waghalter explained his philosophy to a newspaper of the time: “Music, the strongest citadel of democracy, knows neither colour, creed, nor nationality.”

The Waghalter catalogue includes chamber music (a piano trio and a string quartet), lieder and piano solos as well as An Age-Old Fairy-Tale for violin and small orchestra, an early Symphony in B Minor for Large Orchestra and other pieces for orchestra: suites, an overture and various short genre pieces for small orchestra. He wrote various three-act operatic works: Der Teufelsweg (The Devil’s Path); Mandragola; Jugend, Sataniel, Der späte Gast (The Late Guest) and Ahasaverus and Esther as well as four operettas Der Weiberkrieg (The Women’s War), Bärbel, Lord Tommy and Ting-Ling.

The Violin Concerto carries a dedication to Joachim pupil, Andreas Moser, but like the Rhapsodie was written for Wladislaw Waghalter, Ignatz's brother. Its three movements are: I. Allegro moderato; II. Andante sostenuto con molto espressivo and III. Allegro con spirito – Allegro giocoso. The ripe and expressive style is broadly related to Bruch and Brahms and receives a princely revival from Irmina Trynkos. Her searchingly pure yet emotion-charged tone matches Waghalter's writing to a tee. It's not entirely surprising to read that she studied with Lydia Mordkovitch. The first movement is so richly decked out that at times it veers into Tchaikovsky territory. The searching and emotional cantabile of the second movement follows attacca. Walker and Trynkos pour on the romance. This could easily be a lost movement from the Korngold concerto. The brief finale bubbles and chatters in happy high spirits. The succulent little Rhapsodie sounds like something Glazunov or Saint-Saens might have produced in their high maturity. It comprises five sections: three slow and two fast. It's a smooth caramel confection and could easily have been separated at birth from the middle movement of the Concerto. The three movement Violin Sonata was awarded the Mendelssohn Prize in 1902. Sweetly insinuating ways and flowing invention are lovingly articulated by Trynkos and Latsabidze. The style is good fit with the Concerto so everything is in complementary place. We finish this first disc with two well paced and sentimental salon effusions - the Idyll and Geständnis. They might well have been written to turn a penny and satisfy Waghalter's publishers and are none the worse for that. They form a lightly liquid coda to this disc of attractive discoveries. Trynkos is very much centre-stage. She receives what sounds to me to be a usefully more forward balance than usual. The sound team comprises Mike Clements and Andrew Walton.

The second disc presents the old world and new world faces of this composer and one pièce d'occasion straddling or in transition between the two worlds. Mandragola was the second of his operas and dates from his Deutsches Opernhaus days. The plot follows the fortunes of an old man, his young wife and a young doctor. Man and wife are unable to have children. The doctor will administer a potion made with the mandragola root and the wife will conceive. The faithless and ardent young doctor has quite another way of ensuring that the wife has a baby. The Overture is a zesty, bubbly and naughty firework of an affair as befits Waghalter's take on the subject. It has an operetta accent and would be a good companion to John Foulds' overture Le Cabaret. The Intermezzo is a contentedly genial amble with leading charm from the oboe, elegant satire from the trumpet and a winningly sultry yet weightless Tchaikovskian melody from the strings. The New World Suite is a series of ten succinct vignettes. The Intrada has the wild-eyed, machine-age edginess of a Kurt Weill or even a Mossolov. Intermezzo takes on the persona of the little genre pieces he wrote in the 1900s. Many of these pieces have a light dusting of jazziness, something of Poulenc's Parisian man-about-town and a dash of the cleverness of Lord Berners. The Vaudeville movement takes on an anti-establishment music-hall air with a jaunty part for the piano. The lyrical ivy-entwining convolutions of the Berceuse make way for the final Allegro with its fresh helping of satire and a swirling piano part. This music stands at a very remote distance from the out-and-out romance of the Violin Concerto. It's quite a contrast but then again Waghalter's life had, like that of many others, undergone huge convulsions. This 200-page score was written soon after he arrived in New York in the 1930s. It was only discovered, in a sealed envelope, after the composer's death. Masaryk’s Peace March was a commissioned piece dating from his two years in Prague in the 1930s. It's a confident extended merry-go-round of a march, with an operetta oompah 'signature' and a sentimental populist counter-melody. There's a close-ish fit with the Fucik and Suk marches and a phrase doffing the hat to Dvorak soon after the start. The recorded sound secured by producer Pavel Lavrenenkov and his team is fine.

The paper-fold notes are in English and are by Michael Haas for the Violin Concerto disc and by the conductor Alexander Walker for the New World Suite disc.

We owe the existence of these discs to funding from the Belgravia Centre and the enthusiasm, insight and sedulous labour of the conductor and project-leader, Martin Walker.

There's plenty here to fascinate but if you need to restrict yourself to one disc then opt for the one with the Violin Concerto which is quite a discovery. One longs to hear the complete Mandragola.
 
Rob Barnett
 

 

 



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