SIEGMUND VON HAUSEGGER: Natursymphonie (Nature Symphony) – WDR Rundfunkchor Köln;/ WDR Sinfonieorchester Köln / Ari Rasilainen – CPO

by | Aug 9, 2008 | SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews | 0 comments

SIEGMUND VON HAUSEGGER: Natursymphonie (Nature Symphony) – WDR Rundfunkchor Köln;/ WDR Sinfonieorchester Köln / Ari Rasilainen – CPO multichannel SACD 777237, 56:37 ****1/2 [Distr. by Naxos]:

“Hausegger taught me everything about musical structure and the key to unlock a symphony.” So wrote Eugen Jochum about his respected teacher at the Munich Academy of Music, the Austrian Siegmund von Hausegger (1872-1948). Whilst von Hausegger wrote but a small corpus of works, his teaching, research and conducting ensured he was not forgotten, and this recording should arouse more interest in his music.

In April 1932, von Hausegger put on two performances of the Ninth Symphony of Bruckner, the first using the old corrupt version by Löwe and the second using Bruckner’s own version, later published in the edition by Haas. Von Hausegger assisted in this and made the first and famous recording of the Ninth with the Munich Philharmonic, the orchestra he directed after his time with the Scottish Orchestra, for HMV in 1938, the year he retired from conducting.

The Nature Symphony is a sizeable work for large orchestra with organ, written in 1911. It is profoundly Romantic and lush, its style going out of fashion fairly soon after the First World War. Inspired by the mountainous landscape round Graz, his birthplace, this grand work opens describing Alpine solitude with the organ underpinning the start. The joy of Nature is expressed at times with colours Mahler used in his First Symphony, though von Hausegger remains his own man. The sizable second movement is an elegy for Nature, emphasising the transient existence of Life, and has many moving moments, one of which nearly metamorphosises into the Wagner of Tannhäuser.

The third movement is where the expected storm occurs with rain, flashes of lightning and thunder. Yet this storm is restorative. The final movement sets words by Goethe marvelling on the infinity of faith “You no longer count nor reckon any time” and the works ends with this positive proclamation. Joseph Marx, the Austrian composer nearly contemporary with von Hausegger, wrote passionately about him; he himself wrote a large work Herbstsymphonie surely deserving similar treatment to the Natursymphonie – a recording from CPO and these forces would be very welcome.

Orchestra and chorus perform excellently under Ari Rasilainen, a conductor used to unusual works and large forces. The recording is first-class, the enviable standard German Radio stations seem to achieve as a matter of course, and this big work benefits from issue as an SACD. As usual with CPO, the booklet is very informative if a little quaintly translated, and there are several photographs of von Hausegger, who, in his youth, was particularly handsome. This recording is recommended with enthusiasm. [Interesting contrasts and similarities to R. Strauss’ Alpine Symphony…Ed.]

— Peter Joelson

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