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Woldemar BARGIEL (1828-1897)
Symphony in C, Op. 30 (1880) [31:36]
Overture to Medea for large orchestra, inspired by Euripides’ tragedy, Op. 22 (c.1861) [10.38]
Intermezzo for Orchestra Op.46 (1880) [7.02]
Overture to a Tragedy for large orchestra, inspired by Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, Op. 18 (1859) [14.54]
Orquesta Sinfonica de San Luis Potosi/José Miramontes Zapata
rec. live, Teatro de la Paz, San Luis Potosi, Mexico, 2014
STERLING CDS1105-2 [64.14]

Woldemar Bargiel, composer, director and pedagogue as the booklet has it, wrote a small amount of music but taught extensively in Berlin. Family ties with the Schumann family and studies with Moscheles and Gade equipped him well for a compositional career and it’s the major symphonic and orchestral works to which Sterling has turned in this release.

Composed in 1880 the Symphony in C is strongly stamped with Beethovenian influence, harmonically, rhythmically, as well as thematically. It possesses a striving intensity and a purposeful sense of organization and if, from time to time, it seems somewhat repetitious, moments such as the elegiac outer panels of the slow movement offer compensation. This movement seems to pay homage to Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony, drawing on a noble peroration. There’s a heavy-stomping, somewhat Viennese scherzo and a classical sonata form finale, that might evoke Mendelssohn’s Reformation Symphony, its triumphant motto theme full of striding brio.

Refined touches, such as layered brass writing, inform the orchestration of Overture to Medea: portent and subtle drama couched in classical form. Hints, too, of Mendelssohn, once more, and of the Beethoven of Egmont. A more genial and relaxed affair is the 1880 Intermezzo with its elegant burnish. Finally, there is the Overture to a Tragedy for large orchestra, inspired by Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, Op. 18, the earliest of the quartet of works, composed in 1859. Romantic but disciplined, Mendelssohnian but slightly diffuse, its urgency is balanced by an emotional even-keel that ensures balance but also that the music never strays much beyond allotted bounds. This is expertly done but somewhat constrained when it comes to the emotive complexity of the source material.

The supporting documentation is perfectly adequate, indeed good. The recording is similarly attractive and, despite one or two moments of imprecision, the orchestra plays with commitment and stylistic assurance, directed by the expert José Miramontes Zapata.

Jonathan Woolf

Previous reviews: Rob Barnett ~ Michael Wilkinson


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