Felix Weingartner = WEBER: Overture to Der Freischuetz; Invitation to the Dance; SCHUBERT: Rosamunde: Entr’acte No. 3 in B-flat Major; WEINGARTNER: The Tempest: Scherzettino; MENDELSSOHN: Symphony No. 3 – Basle Sym./Royal Philharmonic – Pristine Audio

by | Feb 5, 2010 | Classical Reissue Reviews | 0 comments

Felix Weingartner = WEBER: Overture to Der Freischuetz; Invitation to the Dance (orch.  Weingartner); SCHUBERT: Rosamunde: Entr’acte No. 3 in B-flat Major, D. 797; WEINGARTNER: The Tempest, Op. 65: Scherzettino; MENDELSSOHN: Symphony No. 3 in A Minor, Op. 56 “Scottish” – Basle Symphony Orchestra/Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (Mendelssohn)/Felix Weingartner

Pristine Audio PASC210, 58:41 [www.pristine classical.com] ****:

Conductor Felix Weingartner (1863-1942) belonged to a literalist tradition in German music-making not far removed from the style of Arturo Toscanini, as both eschewed the more excessive aspects of Romantic exaggeration and musical histrionics. Weingartner made his mark on the history of recordings with a first complete cycle of Beethoven symphonies. His penchant for orchestration embraced Beethoven’s Hammerklavier Sonata and Bizet’s Variations chromatiques. Producer and engineer Mark Obert-Thorn has expertly resuscitated some of the rarer materials Weingartner bequeathed us from Basle, including the 1928 realization of his own incidental music excerpt for The Tempest, previously issued only in Switzerland. Only the 1928 Invitation to the Dance–from the same May 3 session–appeared in the USA.

The program opens with the Der Freischuetz Overture (3 May 1928) in relatively thin sound and distant acoustics, so the otherwise distinctive horn and woodwind scoring of the piece is lost, more the wont of pre-electrical recording techniques than the recording date would indicate. Typical of any Weingartner performance, we do enjoy a strong architectural sense, the musical periods shaped along natural breathe periods. The Schubert B-flat Entr’acte from Rosamunde (3 May 1928) proves more successful, the lyricism in the forward strings retained along with resonant woodwinds. Tempos are generally brisk, andantino, the lines long and elastic. Weingartner’s own music for The Tempest (3 May 1928) projects a fairy-land ethos, the harmonic syntax closer to Shreker than to Mendelssohn, the bass harmonies complementing the upper register in flute and pizzicato strings. The middle section exploits a nasal falsetto sound in thin violins, with warbles and plucked notes beneath. As for Weingartner’s orchestration of the Weber Invitation to the Dance (3 May 1928), it certainly is not Berlioz. While Weingartner assigns some of the same tissue to cellos and violins, he does not mind adjusting the extended line among several choirs, including harp and bass fiddles. Weingartner’s innate love for counterpoint manifests itself, and some of the stretti become simultaneously ponderous and hectic.

The recording of Mendelssohn’s 1842 Scottish Symphony (27 March 1929) with the Royal Philharmonic sets a lovely standard of execution, linear, sympathetic, vocally shaped.  Sonic definition in the clarinets, strings–especially the violas–and tympani remains strong. Weingartner brings out the seamless mastery of the Mendelssohn mature style, beautifully integrating the two main themes of the first movement. The pentatonic Vivace–in sonata-allegro form rather than a true scherzo–basks in a kind of bright and sportive Caledonian flavor. The RPO woodwinds, horns and whirling strings are in martial spirited form. The Andante possesses something of Schumann’s romanticism, although the scoring is more delicate. Weingartner milks the string line, with its plucked harp-like accompaniment, with tender affection. The march of the secondary theme casts a somber and devotional hue on the work. Much of the vigorous, even fierce Finale resounds with fugal techniques we hear in the Fingal’s Cave Overture. Weingartner takes the move to 6/8 and A Major with aggressive authority, allowing this “warlike” piece to conclude with a brilliant authority, a performance that certainly stands the test of time.

–Gary Lemco

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