Austrian virtuoso violinist Wolfgang Schneiderhan explores classic and modern scores at the Lucerne Festival.
MOZART: Violin Concerto No. 5 in A Major K. 219 “Turkish”; HENZE: Violin Concerto No. 1; MARTIN: Magnificat – Wolfgang Schneiderhan, v./ Irmgaard Seefried, sop./ Swiss Festival Orch./ Paul Hindemth (Mozart)/ Ferdinand Leitner (Henze)/ Bernard Haitink (Martin) – Audite 95.644, 65:07 (10/31/16) [Distr. by Naxos] ****:
Austrian violinist Wolfgang Schneiderhan (1915-2002) appears thrice at the Lucerne Festival, an organization with whom he made music from 1949 until 1986. The performance of the Mozart Turkish Concerto (13 August 1952) represents the earliest documentation of Schneiderhan’s participation at the Festival, ably assisted by conductor Paul Hindemith, who had replaced Wilhelm Furtwaengler on short notice. With conductor Ferdinand Leitner (1912-1996) – General Music Director of the Stuttgart State Opera and the Zurich Opera House – Schneiderhan performs the 1947 Violin Concerto No. 1 by Hans Werner Henze (26 August 1964), a work that combines some of Hindemith’s academicism with elements of Alban Berg and Bela Bartok. Bernard Haitink appears (14 August 1968) in the Frank Martin Magnificat, a piece the composer dedicated to the principals, Irmgaard Seefried and Wolfgang Schneiderhan, and in 1969 incorporated into his Maria-Triptychon as its second movement.
The Audite document, then, captures the range of Schneiderhan’s musical interests, divided between the Great German Tradition and the emergence of the new Vienna/German School that followed the models of Berg and Schoenberg. The Mozart proceeds in a genial manner, only becoming singularly ardent in the Adagio, and in particular in Schneiderhan’s extended cadenza. The four-movement Henze work presents a curious admixture of passing, serial elements and a jaunty exhibitionism, youthful posturing with moments of somber meditation. A tender melody does emerge late in the first movement, colored by hazy chords in the strings under an inverted pedal. The second movement Vivacissimo – Alla Marcia declaims in a manner that suggests Hindemith and Stravinsky. In its acerbic moments, we hear Bartok’s savage temperament. The Andante con moto demonstrates the composer’s intent to provide “widely curved, tender cantilenas.” The delicate support tissue certainly owes debts to Alban Berg. The last movement, Allegro molto vivace, has some potent note-spinning, the composer’s intent one of “a full, wild harmonious sound.” As incisive and convulsive as some of the harmonies become – utilizing explosive brass, percussion and piano – Schneiderhan’s violin tone remains rounded and secure, lustrous even in the provocative syntax and daunting shifts of bow application the composer requires.
Cellist Pierre Fournier spoke of composer Frank Martin reverentially: “Frank Martin has always belonged to the elite of the musical world due solely to his creative genius, nurtured by the silent meditation in his work and by the fervor of his faith.” Austere and rapturous, the piece demands that Seefried exclaim, exhort, and declaim in strong, stentorian tones. Schneiderhan’s violin part seems relatively restrained, almost demure until halfway, when the writing becomes stridently aggressive. The rhythms of the piece resonate with vitality, and open fifths add an unearthly sound effect. Typical of Martin’s highly Christian opera, melody seems less crucial than texture and competing colors, occupying an austere, radiant space between Stravinsky and Faure. The last two minutes achieve some kind of resignation, a grudging transcendence.
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