Weigl String Quartets 1 & 5
The Viennese composer Karl Weigl, pupil of Zemlinsky, lifelong friend of Schonberg and associate of Mahler has remained a footnote in the annals of twentieth century music - until now. These two string quartets reveal a composer in tune with his times and at ease with his past. The first quartet is a revelation with the shadow of Mahler very much to the fore.
|Review||"The testimonial that heads this review was written by Pablo Casals - he went on to add, "We will return to those who have written real music". Weigl was born in the 1880s and, until the rise of National Socialism, had a relatively successful career in Austria as both composer and academic - though his music seems to not have achieved any significant international reputation; sadly, unlike a composer such as Hindemith (whose compositions had had significant exposure outside German-oriented Europe), Weigl's flight to the USA in 1938 led to obscurity and poverty. Although he managed to eventually gain teaching posts on the East Coast and was granted American citizenship, he was to die in 1949 with his music all but forgotten. There have been isolated performances of his works since his death - Stokowski, no less, gave the first performance of his fifth symphony at Carnegie Hall in 1968 - but these haven't produced any significant follow-up of interest in his music. This disc, released in 2000, thus represented a further attempt to bring this gifted composer in from the cold. In so much as it was succeeded by two discs of his orchestral works from BIS, it was moderately effective but as things stand now, those discs and this issue are all that are available to the curious music enthusiast. In general, I second the enthusiastic response of the earlier reviewer on this Amazon page. Particularly with regard to the large scale first quartet in C minor, the comparison with the late quartets of Beethoven is an apposite one; there is a seriousness and an intensity about this music that demands close attention and rewards close listening. The later quartet in G major is a more concise and, despite the vigour of his writing, a more genial work: apparently one reviewer of the first performance found something of both Schubert and Hugo Wolf in this composition, and I would go along with that - it certainly stands firmly in the Viennese chamber music tradition. The `larghetto' in the G major quartet carries the bulk of this piece's emotional weight and despite the conflict in the opening movement and `scherzo' of the C minor quartet, I think the same argument could be made for the `adagio' and the `andante moderato' in that work. Incidentally, having first listened to the C minor quartet without reading the liner notes, the `slow' finale took me rather by surprise, even though from the date of the work's composition there is no reason why it should do; for some reason I was expecting a more emphatic, large scale `allegro', or the like, to conclude the piece - however, the composer's judgement was inspired and the finale forms a beautifully conceived conclusion to the work. If I have one slightly less positive comment to make about these quartets, it is perhaps that a lot of the satisfaction from this music is intellectual: as the previous reviewer also correctly pointed out, this isn't music to have playing in the background. Even a movement like the `scherzo' of the C minor quartet - marked "wild und bacchantisch - furioso" in the score - bears witness to a disciplined nature that reins in the wilder elements one might expect from a bacchanal; that said, the recitatives that link that movement to the finale are successful on all levels, both technically and emotionally. I'd like to hear more of Weigl's music and have very much enjoyed getting to know these quartets. I am curious, too, to discover whether Weigl's other compositions also display similar cerebral qualities and whether that possibly militated against their wider popularity in the composer's day. It would certainly be a shame if that is the case, as there is music of real beauty and of real emotional depth here - if it lacked the immediacy of impact to have made an impression on audiences in the concert halls, the medium of CD and home listening provide exactly the sort of environment and close acquaintance that would allow Weigl's gifts to be appreciated. The sound quality provided by Nimbus and the performances from the Artis Quartett Wien are quite simply superb, as you'd expect from a team that also brought us two highly acclaimed discs of Zemlinsky's string quartets (one of which was nominated for a Gramophone Award in 1999, amongst various other accolades)."-J. A. Peacock|