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Karl WEIGL (1881-1949)
Symphony No.1 (1908) [47:54]
Pictures and Tales (1922) [13:00]
Deutsche Staatsphilharmonie, Rheinland-Pfalz/Jürgen Bruns
rec. 8- 2018, Ludwigshafen Philharmonie
CAPRICCIO C5365 [60:54]

Austrian composer Karl Weigl had his mature productive life bounded by his six symphonies: No. 2 in D minor, Op. 19 (1922); No. 3 in B minor (1931); No. 4 in F minor (1936); No. 5, Apocalyptic (1945) and No. 6 in A minor (1947). They evidence a composer whose musical creativity was securely founded in romanticism and tonality. There were also concertos, chamber works, piano solos and an opera to take into the reckoning. However, his slowly pupating and awakening legacy is charted through his years in Vienna and then his enforced uprooting to the USA in 1938. The last two symphonies - of Mahlerian proportions - came from his years of exile in America. Those last two have been recorded by BIS (review review). His teaching career in America found him in the Boston Conservatory and the Philadelphia Academy of Music.

The First Symphony is made up of four movements: I Leicht bewegt; II Sehr lebhaft; III Langsam; IV Lebhaft. It is of considerable dimensions and its sun-kissed mind-set is very soothing, gentle and Schubertian in the case of the Leicht bewegt. Weigl finds more tension in the restless Sehr lebhaft and his writing for the horns at the close of that movement (and of the finale) is unforgettably effervescent. The Langsam has much in common with the almost self-effacing and healing Leicht bewegt; such sustained quiet confidence! The jocund Lebhaft skitters, flutters and dances. It does not try for a rowdily incandescent crowd-pleaser of a conclusion - everything is in proportion. The overall effect can be equated with Franz Schmidt’s Symphony No. 1 but there is none of the astringency adopted by Schmidt in his other three symphonies. Weigl had no truck with the expressionism evolved by Zemlinsky and Schreker. Another parallel is the Fifth Symphony (1922) of the Danish composer Louis Glass although the Weigl is not quite in the same league as that work. Weigl’s First Symphony was premiered in Zurich in 1908 by the Tonhalle Orchestra conducted by Volkmar Andreae and back in Austria on 4 March 1911 with the Vienna Tonkünstler under Oskar Nedbal. It was revived in 1982 by the Reno Philharmonic conducted by Ron Daniels.

The suite for small orchestra traces its origins to a 1909 set of six short piano pieces, orchestrated in 1922. The movement titles might have been the titles of illustrations by Kay Nielsen, Arthur Rackham or Edmund Dulac. It’s a series of successful, almost lush and glowing evocations of fairy-tale worlds. You might think of it as a Southern Germanic answer to Ravel’s Ma mère L'Oye but without the grotesquerie. It was the last work of Weigl’s to be played in his homeland before he left Austria for his own safety.

The liner booklet essay is by Christian Heindl and is in German and English.

I trust that it will not be long before we get to hear the forgotten symphonies 2, 3 and 4.
Rob Barnett

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