KARL AMADEUS HARTMANN (1905-63) The Eight Symphonies & Gesangs-Szene (1935-63) Bavarian Radio SO Wergo WER60187-90-50



4 CDs in 2 single width boxes in card slipcase.

Rather like the Donemus set of the Vermeulen symphonies this one from Schotts-Wergo stands as an important document of twentieth century music and an assertion of the vibrant adaptable life of the symphony.

Hartmann's music is predominantly serious with a strong vein of the exotic and impressionism. It is not out of keeping with the lugubrious looking composer portrayed in Adolf Hartmann's painting on the cover of the CDs. The history of many of the works here traces back to earlier works from the 1930s and Third Reich years. There is clearly a great deal more to hear from those years. I hope someone will resurrect the works of that time, or have they all been destroyed? I cannot imagine this music appealing to the National Socialist movement, but who knows? It would be interesting to hear of Hartmann's role in the political and artistic life of Germany.

To return to the Wergo set: documentation is rather sketchy; no biography at all. There are two booklets - one in each of the pair of slimline boxes (I wish more companies would use these elegant boxes: it saves space and materials). The first box has the notes in German; the second in English. The sung texts of symphony 1 and Gesangs-Szene are given in full. The orchestral specifications are listed and there is a technical description of each work. The translation into English is not always a very happy one. The first two CDs run over 60 mins. The others run 50 mins or less. Sadly, precise dates and even years of recordings are not given. The recordings (all AAD) are in very good stereo and date from no later than 1980 when this collection was first issued on LP. I would guess that the earliest recording here would be no older than 1960s. The provenance of these recordings is likely to be from radio and concert tapes.

The Bavarians are conducted by Rafael Kubelik in all but numbers 7 (Zdenek Macal), 3 (Ferdinand Leitner) and 1 (Fritz Rieger). These Wergo recordings should not be overlooked in the current revival of interest in Kubelik both as conductor and as composer.

The competition is not directly comparable. There is a 1990s series of the Hartmann symphonies on German HMV but it is curiously arranged with many of the symphonies coupled with works by other composers. I have not heard any of these CDs. I do have the Koch International CD which includes the Sinfonia Tragica and the surviving adagio from symphony No. 2 all conducted by Karl-Anton Rickenbacher with the Bamberg SO. The fact that it includes the Tragica not offered here makes it an appendix to the Wergo set.

No 1 Essay for a Requiem (1936 rev 1948-50) This, the only pre-WW2 symphony, starts the cycle with an evocation of the apocalyptic chasm. The contralto is Doris Soffel and she has a fine rich voice which does not compromise enunciation, though under strain (e.g. track 4 00:38) she develops a wobble. In any event, the words are here in German and English. The words are by Walt Whitman from Leaves of Grass. Later the sentiments are to be echoed in the much later and even more apocalyptic Gesang-Szene from the end of his life. It might be interesting to hear the first symphony with RVW's 4th or Bax's 6th symphonies. The Hartmann language is still challenging although whether it was still as challenging in its original pristine 1930s version we will perhaps never know. Schoenberg (especially Gurrelieder in this work) was clearly a powerful influence on Hartmann. Sprechstimme is used in the epilogue final section.

No 3 (1949) This is likely to be the same recording as was once issued by Deutsche Grammophon in the early 1960s on a 10" LP. The conductor is Ferdinand Leitner.

At 35 mins this is the largest of the symphonies. It is in two large (18'+17') movements. The first is a largo which opens in chamber music textures - long string lines interlacing. The music is searingly atonal at times but usually intensely and stabbingly lyrical in a way like Tippett's Corelli Fantasia. At 9:35 there is a clear break where the mood and tempo changes. A furious fugal section now takes over and this can seem rather academic but such is the tumult and the flashes of triumph that this impression is soon dispelled. At 12:00 some of the most extraordinary music of sinewy tumult can be heard. At 14:10 an exotic Chinese march appears - charming in its music box evocation. A sprightly little march is decked in harp figures. The movement ends in metropolitan high-wire dramatics.

The second movement adagio opens with a cool balanced trumpet ushering in a steaming march, there briefly and then gone. The trumpet echoes out over meditative harp slashes. This is one of Hartmann's best works. He is at his most imaginative when at his quietest and most impressionistic. Sections like that at 4:20 show Hartmann as the inheritor of the late-romantic mantle borne by Strauss, Schoeck and Marx. The transition from high drama to more cerebral waters between 9:20 and 10:00 is wonderfully done and a key moment in the work. The work resolves itself in quiet and in the same shadows which opened the Largo. This work has a fine finished and rounded feel to it.

No 2 Adagio (1946) This is a single quarter hour structure by turns apocalyptic (the heritage of then recent German history surely), serene and comforting. Much of the music is impressionistic and exotic - almost the Roussel of Padmavati or Evocations. How often this happens in Hartmann. The quieter pools of music are impressionistic, poetic and easier to assimilate. The moment passions intensify and grand tragedy rears up the strings and brass lean on atonalism, screeching (a little like Vermeulen) in pain and loss. This work is very sensuous and French. It makes an immediate impact. Of course Hartmann must gaze into the chasm and this happens at 9:10 and is all the more horrifying for all that has gone before. Even the exertions of the last four minutes are quite French and could well have been written by some pupil of Ravel, Roussel, Schmitt or Koechlin.

No 4 (for strings) (1947) This is a three movement work adapted from an earlier symphony for strings and soprano (1938) the last movement of which was intriguingly entitled Epitaph for a Warrior. I wonder why that movement was suppressed? That last movement was in any event replaced by another Hartmann adagio. The first movement lento assai - con passione (14 mins) serenades calmly with only a hint of tonal sourness. The music has a hint of Tippett's string writing as well as something of Nicholas Maw. The movement ends with a solo violin in an atmosphere approximating to The Lark Ascending. The central movement is busy and buzzing with activity, again recalling middle period Tippett and this time Bartók. The last movement seems anachronism by comparison with its predecessors. The language is more stridently atonal and I am not at all convinced that it works well as a resolution to the symphony.

No 5 Symphonie Concertante (1950) The orchestra used here is unusual: double woodwind, pairs of trumpets and trombones, tuba, and strings (cellos and double basses only). Four movements in about 16 minutes. This is a decidedly Stravinskian work with touches of Dumbarton Oaks, Soldier's Tale, Rite of Spring (the bassoon theme is toyed with repeatedly), Symphonies of Wind Instruments and Fireworks. I was also reminded of Kurt Weill from the Dreigröschenoper Suite. A salty sound - full of intrigue for the ear. Not even a hint of a movement going on too long. The final movement ends in a pugnacious threat from the brass.

No 6 (1952-3) Symphonies 6-8 are in two movements. No 6 was based on a withdrawn 1938 work inspired by Zola's novel L'Oeuvre and premiered in Liège in 1939. It was premiered in Munich in 1953 when it was conducted by Eugen Jochum. Hartmann's striving lyricism is much to the fore and the main vehicle for it is the string section. The language has its roots in French impressionism as well as early Schoenberg and Zemlinsky. The drive is torrential and brass and percussion spur it forward. Dreamy respite comes sparingly in a Debussian haze (8:00 track 1). Side-drum and increasingly ominous brass disturb the dream. The second of the two movements is a toccata of buzzing activity structured around three fugues. Its theme has a sour jollity borrowed from Bartók. Occasionally the string-writing here made me wonder if Tippett had heard the work. The close is replete with landslides of percussion and orchestral piano.

No 7 (1958) This bubbling, bejewelled work was commissioned by the Koussevitsky Foundation. It was premiered by Hans Schmidt-Isserstedt. There is yet more of the eerie jollity and patterned fugal feel - a breathless flood of activity. The second movement opens with a quiet cello solo which the violins soon develop and sing in long high-lying sinuous lines. The symphony is conducted by the Czech, Zdenek Macal.

No 8 (1960-62) The first movement is another of Hartmann's cantilenas. The long-unwinding tune is announced first by solo viola in a passage which sounds positively Holstian. This is a touchingly melodious inspiration. It is appropriated by furious high-tension strings and punctuated by the marimba and stern brass figures. Not for the last time I was reminded of Tippett's style from Priam onwards. The opening of the second movement is a whispered sardonic march with a triumphal skirl and snap the outline of which would not be out of place in mid-period Bax although the sour treatment is very different.

Gesangs-Szene (1961-63) The singer (and speaker) is Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau in fresh voice. The text, printed in full in the booklet, is from Jean Giraudoux's Sodom und Gomorrha. The text is apocalyptic painting an empire grown quickly to splendour and struck down by every form of pestilence and canker, inflation and poison. The vision is one of nightmare and the music partners the text ideally. This is surely an echo of the rise and fall of Nazi Germany although it has something to say about all empires and what follows when they fall.

With the exception of No 1 these are all-post WW2 works written during trauma, disillusion, renewal of identity and recovery. British symphonies written in the 1950s are gradually being rediscovered (e.g. Rubbra and Frankel). Hartmann's are the German counterpart and written against the recent background of defeat, separation under the occupation, nuclear threat and amid reconstruction they have a fascination and much poetry.

The language is romantic in a Bergian way. Hartmann has a deep sympathy for romanticism as well as for strong rhythmic figures. Rarely does the music grind to anything approaching a halt. If you enjoy the music of Frankel, Allan Pettersson or William Schuman you should explore this set. The third symphony is the strongest and most accessible of the cycle but try also the concentrated Adagio symphony.

Recording quality is consistently excellent - detailed, open and life-like (page-turning can be heard in No 7 and a cough or two in No 8) with plenty of impact. Performances are confident and suggest plenty of rehearsal time and players who are inside the idiom. Recommended.


Robert Barnett


Please let me know of any errors, omissions or other corrections.

Symphonies Nos. 1-8. Gesangszene (1963) Doris Soffel (contr); Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau (bar); Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra / Fritz Rieger, Rafael Kubelik, Ferdinand Leitner, Zdenek Macal. CD Wergo WER60187-50 (four CD set: 225 minutes: ADD). From LP set WER60086. Symphonies—No. 1 (1935-6); No. 2 (1946) Adagio; No. 3 (1948-9); No. 4 (1947); No. 5 (1950); No. 6 (1952-3); No. 7 (1957-8); No. 8 (1960-62). Symphony No. 1, "Versuch eines Requiem" (1935-6) (Martinu Memorial to Lidice. Nono Canti di vita e d’amore. Schoenberg A Survivor from Warsaw, Op. 46) Sarah Leonard (sop); Cornelia Kallisch (contr); Thomas Randle (ten); Udo Samel (spkr); men’s voices of the Bamberg Symphony Chorus; Bamberg Symphony Orchestra / Ingo Metzmacher. CD EMI CDC5 55424-2 (59 minutes: DDD).

Symphony No. 1, "Versuch eines Requiem" (1935-6) LP Wergo WER 60 061 c/w Gesangszene - presum. the same recording as in the boxed set?

No. 2, "Adagio". (1946) Gesangsszene to words from Jean Giraudoux's "Sodom and Gomorrah". Sinfonia Tragica. Siegmund Nimsgern (bar); Bamberg Symphony Orchestra / Karl Anton Rickenbacher. CD Koch Schwann CD 312952

Symphony No 2 (1946) (c/w Sym 5 plus - Stravinsky - symphony in 3 movements Bernd Alois Zimmermann - symphony in one movement) Bamberg Symphony Orchestra / Ingo Metzmacher Arno Bornkamp - Bariton Saxophon rec 1997: CD EMI CDC 5 56184 2

Symphony No 2 (1946) Rosbaud cond the SWF SinfonieOrch CD DMR 1004-6 Deutsche Harmonia Mundi. Poss same recording is now part of a 4-CD Col Legno set, AU-031800 CD Col Legno

Symphony No. 3. (1948-9) Ives Robert Browning Overture. Bamberg Symphony Orchestra / Ingo Metzmacher. CD EMI CDC5 55254-2

Symphony No. 4 (1947) Franz Andre cond Brussels Radio Symphony strings or INR Symphony Orchestra, Brussels LP ca. 1950 10" mono Capitol-Telefunken LP L-8146

Symphony No. 4 (1947) (finale Adagio Appassionato only) LP DL9769 LP "New Directions in Music and Sound", Contemporary German Music. Nr.1. This LP also has the Finale of Fortner's Symphony (a most distinguished work, the Paganini variations by Blacher, the Capriccio for Orchestra op. 2 by von Einem, and the Furioso for Orchestra by Rolf Liebermann).

Symphony No. 4 (1947) (finale Adagio Appassionato only) reputed DG 78 - no details

Symphony No. 4 (1947) (c/w Messiaen Et exspecto resurrectionem mortuorum). Bamberg Symphony Orchestra / Ingo Metzmacher. CD EMI CDC7 54916-2

Symphonies 4 (1947) and 8 Bavarian RSO/Kubelik LP DG (1968) (different performances from those on the Wergo set) LP DG 139359, in stereo. Recording June 1967. Ever issued on CD? Probably not. If issued on CD - numbers?

Symphony No 5 (1950): (c/w Sym 2; Stravinsky symphony in 3 movements; Bernd Alois Zimmermann symphony in one movement) Bamberg Symphony Orchestra / Ingo Metzmacher 1997 CD EMI CDC 5 56184 2 Symphony No 5 (1950): (c/w 6 & 8) Berlin SO/Gunther Herbig CD Berlin Classics 0090482BC

Symphony No 6 (1952-3) cond. Ferenc Fricsay RIAS Symphony Orchestra, Berlin LP mono Decca Gold Label DL 9861 US release mid 1950s? LP Reissued 801 Deutsche Grammophon Gesellschaft (c/w Egk: French Suite after Rameau. RIAS Berlin, Ferenc Fricsay. (ca. 1957?). This is Nr.2 in the series "New Directions in Music and Sound", Contemporary German Music.

Symphony No 6 (1952-3) (c/w Berg 3 pieces for orchestra op 6; Webern 6 pieces for orchestra for orchestra op 6) Bamberg Symphony Orchestra / Ingo Metzmacher 1996 CD EMI CDC 5 55612 2

Symphony No 6 (1952-3) (c/w 5 & 8) Berlin SO/Gunther Herbig CD Berlin Classics 0090482 BC

Symphony No 6 (1952-3) c/w Berg : Wozzeck - three pieces BRSO, Kupper(s) (1955) Dallapiccola : Two pieces for Orchestra BRSO (1955) Erich Kleiber/Bavarian Radio SO CD Stradivarius STR10084

Symphony No 7 (1957-8) Bamberg Symphony Orchestra / Ingo Metzmacher (c/w Symphony No. 8) CD EMI CDC 5 56427 2 1997

Symphony No 8 (1960-62) Bamberg Symphony Orchestra / Ingo Metzmacher (c/w Symphony No. 7) CD EMI CDC 5 56427 2 1997

Symphony No. 8 (1960-62) Bavarian RSO/Kubelik LP DG (1968) (different performances from those on the Wergo set) LP DG 139359, in stereo. Recording June 1967. (world premiere No. 8 1962 conducted by Rafael Kubelik at Cologne) Reissued on CD? in DG Collectors series 1985?

Hartmann Symphonies No 8 (1960-62) Leipzig RSO/Herbert Kegel (c/w 5 and 6) CD Berlin Classics 0090482BC


Your corrections and additions very much welcomed.

Footnote in the Metzmacher series:-

Gesangszene Sodom and Gomorrah; Miserae Gesangszene: Wolfgang Schoene Baritone; Hermann Pfister flute solo Bamberg Symphony Orchestra / Ingo Metzmacher. (c/w Dallapiccola Canto di Liberazione with Chor des Sueddeutschen Rundfunks and the RIAS Kammerchor) 1997 CD EMI CDC 5 56468 2

compiled by Rob Barnett from information supplied by many contributors to the newsgroup. June 1998


Robert Barnett

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