SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews

First Symphony and King Lear Sym. Poem, by conductor Felix Weingartner

Weingartner thought of himself more as a composer than conductor; influenced by Franz Liszt

Published on May 31, 2005

First Symphony and King Lear Sym. Poem, by conductor Felix Weingartner
FELIX WEINGARTNER: Symphony No. 1 in G Major; King Lear
(Symphonic Poem) – Basel Symphony Orchestra/Marko Letonja – CPO
Multichannel SACD 999 981-2, 56:55 ****:

Weingartner (1863-1942) was one of many conductors who regarded
themselves primarily as composers but posterity thinks of them only as
great conductors. He arose early each morning to devote the morning to
composing before turning to his important conductor duties – which were
primarily with the Basle City Theater in Switzerland, which later
became the Basle Symphony Orchestra. He loved Switzerland and became a
citizen there in 1931. Born in Dalmatia, his studies at the Leipzig
Conservatory won him the Mozart Prize upon graduation.  He was
introduced to Franz Liszt and his compositions were often highly
influenced by the symphonic poems of that composer. He wrote several
operas, seven symphonies and much chamber music.

Weingartner’s King Lear is more of a large overture than a Lisztian
symphonic poem.  He stressed that the work was not programmatic,
but merely designed to create images of Lear, his daughter Cordelia and
emotions in the play. The madness of Lear is conveyed with a large
percussion section which is not employed in the rest of the work. The
First Symphony of 1989 is a light-hearted youthful work with some
lyrical melodies. In the first movement a theme is recalled from a
piano sonata by Rubinstein often played by his mother in his childhood
and the work’s third movement has recollections of Mendelssohn. The
orchestra has a deep and wide soundstage and there is a good hall
impression in this enjoyable musical discovery.

- John Sunier




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