Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Wellesz, Egon. (1885-1974) Symphonies No 4/6/7.

From my collection.
Bought in November 2009.
First listening date: 26-11-2009.
Second listen: 9-4-2015.
Third listen: 17-5-2017.
Label: CPO.
Recording dates: November 2001.
Recording venue: Grosser Sendesaal, Funkhaus, ORF, Austria.
Recording engineer: Andreas Karlberger.
Running time: 70:44.
Classical relevance: Essential. 


Works performed: 
Symphony No 4, opus 70. (Sinfonia Austriaca)
Symphony No 6, opus 95.
Symphony No 7, opus 102. (Contra torrentem)

Performed by:

Radio SO Wien, Gottfried Rabl.

Egon Wellesz is a formidable composer, and quite unjustly forgotten. At the same time he is not an easy composer to approach, far from it.
The common denominator, that what defines his music is, that his musicality can be very grim.
His tonal palette goes from tonal, to tonality stretched, right into the 12 tone technique, crossing the border to atonality, and his own musical input. He likes a frantic pace with little or no rest, or lingering on a theme. He is very much a composer that will use a large orchestra to full effect. Massive blocks of brass, fitted in a march like tempo, insistent it its arguments, aggressive interaction through all desks, sometimes in a very angry way, even quite brutal. Never slackens the pressure, not even in the slow movements. There is a logical determination that is almost oppressive. Sometimes, but very rarely, some light in the form of beautifully shaped tone clusters burst out of nothing, like in the third movement, of the Fourth Symphony, last 2 minutes. But blimey, the rich palette of moods and colours is fascinating and utterly convincing.
I admire the technical abilities of Wellesz, which are exceptional, I like the clear arguments he makes throughout his works, I admire the scoring for wind and brass, and the way he puts all together in a coherent way,  that makes me like his music enormously.
From No 7 in a classical form, to No. 6 in which he starts experimenting, ending in a 12 tone technique with the seventh symphony. Quite a kaleidoscope of notes with a devastating expression. You are confronted with an irresistible force of power, which at times is very brash but also loud. Extreme registers and huge dynamic contrasts await you. Always extremely energetic but with an amazing transparency in the scores. These are radiant and well prepared performances in which this orchestra responds superbly well, to the many technical and expressive challenges, and the recording is faithfully registering it, with a wealth of details and the room for the punches that are delivered in quick succession.  Recommended.




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