MusicWeb International One of the most grown-up review sites around

  2022
 57,903 reviews
   and more ... and still writing ...

Search MusicWeb Here
Acte Prealable Polish CDs

Presto Music CD retailer
 
Founder: Len Mullenger                                    Editor in Chief:John Quinn             

Some items
to consider

 

paid for
advertisements

Acte Prealable Polish recordings

Forgotten Recordings
Forgotten Recordings
All Forgotten Records Reviews


TROUBADISC
Troubadisc Weinberg- TROCD01450

100th birthday of Mieczyslaw Weinberg on December 8, 2019.
Renate Eggbrecht has recorded all 3 violin Sonatas
All Troubadisc reviews


FOGHORN Classics

Alexandra-Quartet
Brahms String Quartets

All Foghorn Reviews


All HDTT reviews


Clarissa Bevilacqua plays
Augusta Read Thomas

all Nimbus reviews

Brahms Dvorak
Brahms 2 Dvorak 7
all tudor reviews

 

 


Follow us on Twitter

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing
sample

Sample: See what you will get

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
   
Rob Barnett
Editor in Chief
John Quinn
Contributing Editor
Ralph Moore
Webmaster
   David Barker
Postmaster
Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger

 

Discs for review may be sent to:
Jonathan Woolf
76 Lushes Road
Loughton
Essex IG10 3QB
United Kingdom

jonathan_woolf@yahoo.co.uk


 


Support us financially by purchasing this from
 

Julius BITTNER (1874-1939)
Vaterland; Symphonic poem (1915) [18:21]
Symphony No.1 in F minor (1923) [46:46]
Siberian Symphony Orchestra/Dmitry Vasiliev
rec. 2018, Omsk Philharmonic Hall, Omsk, Siberia
TOCCATA CLASSICS TOCC0500 [65:25]

An exact contemporary of Franz Schmidt and Arnold Schoenberg, Julius Bittmer is termed ‘Forgotten Romantic’ in Brendan G Carroll’s splendid booklet notes. Notes are certainly needed because Bittner is now only a peripheral figure from Vienna’s musical heyday. A high-ranking lawyer, he held an important office in the Austrian Department of Justice until diabetes caused him to retire in his mid-40s. Largely untaught musically as a boy, it was Brahms who suggested the boy study with Josef Labor who also taught Paul Wittgenstein and Alma Schindler, later Mahler’s wife. Labor, another now obscure figure in the city’s musical life, and primarily remembered as an organist, has experienced a small rediscovery via an incredibly rare piano disc he made just after the end of the First World War. It’s on Marston 52073-2.

Wagner, rather more than Brahms, remained Bittner’s lodestar and his friendship with Bruno Walter enabled him to meet Mahler – he was later to become Mahler’s lawyer. He was also taken up by Weingartner. He shared with his much younger friend Korngold – who proved a staunch support financially in Bittner’s troubled final years (he was a double amputee) - and with Joseph Marx a liking for orchestral landscapes on the grand scale, and opera was an obvious route in Vienna. Der rote Gred was his first operatic success, among many. Bittner died in January 1939. He was a Catholic and Carroll notes that his music was ‘inexplicably prohibited’ by the Nazi administration in Vienna. Perhaps it’s explicable if they considered him a ‘Jew-lover’, which as Ladislav Grosman reminds us in the Slovak film The Shop on the High Street, was almost worse than being a Jew.

The two works in this pioneering disc, both receiving their first ever recordings, are a symphonic poem and a symphony. Vaterland was composed in 1915, cast in one 18-minute Lisztian span with real Wagnerian heft to propel its Nationalist wartime sentiments. Its slower sections are well paced but its eruptive vehemence is grandiose in the extreme, with military brass calls and fine, eloquent wind writing. A jaunty march follows before, at around the mid-point, Bittner unfolds a luscious lyric-romantic, Korngoldian tune, succulent and embracing, before reaching out to the organ to intone Ein’ feste Burg ist unser Gott. The triumphant peroration, bells pealing, speaks of imminent victory.

In the Symphony No.1 of 1923 things are very different. The four-movement 47-minute work is hardly unduly expansive, is well-structured and eminently accessible. Its opening undulating figures are appealing, and Bittner can generate forceful outbursts as well as some intriguing sonorities. There are scattered Brahmsian cadences, perhaps others of Schmidt, and plenty of the kind of rhythmic and brass build-up one would associate with Bruckner. This last element is especially true of the grave nobility of the second movement, with some moving writing and lovely wind textures. The music’s elevated spirit must surely reflect Bittner’s own clearly elevated human qualities.

From here, though, for me, the symphony starts to come off the rails. The scherzo is a strange affair, bucolic in part, with some kind of hellish dance, possibly Mahler-influenced, running through it. There’s brief B section, and a perky, pawky element; and it’s all as much balletic as symphonic. A dance-like quality certainly infuses the finale, vibrant and with an admixture of raucous percussion, ending in brassy Dance Spectacular mode. It’s as if the work is broken-backed; half spiritual odyssey, half dance orgy. It’s splendidly if rather in places over-splendidly orchestrated, but lacks a consuming logic, a narrative that makes real symphonic sense.

However, Bittner is a figure worth knowing and this is just the first in a survey of his orchestral music. I can imagine more polished performances, but they are vigorous and attentive and certainly seem to bring out the music’s vitalising core.

Jonathan Woolf




Advertising on
Musicweb


Donate and keep us afloat

 

New Releases

Naxos Classical
All Naxos reviews

Chandos recordings
All Chandos reviews

Hyperion recordings
All Hyperion reviews

Foghorn recordings
All Foghorn reviews

Troubadisc recordings
All Troubadisc reviews


all cpo reviews

Divine Art recordings
Click to see New Releases
Get 10% off using code musicweb10
All Divine Art reviews


All APR reviews

Lyrita recordings
All Lyrita Reviews

 

Wyastone New Releases
Obtain 10% discount

Recordings of the Month

November 2022
Bach
Bach Orchestral Suites

del Cinque
Del Cinque Cello sonatas

Fujita Mozart
Mao Fujita Mozart

Stanczyk
Stanczyk Acousmatic Music

Oropesa

October 2022

Berg Violin Concerto
Violin Concerto Elmes

DEbussy Jeux
Debussy Jeux

Romantic pioano masters
Romantic Piano Masters

The future is female - Vol 2
Volume 2 - The Dance

impromptu harp music
Complete Harp Impromptus