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Sextet Op. 33; Octet Op. 73

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Product Details

  • Performer: Piano Ensemble Acht; Oliver Triendl
  • Composer: Weingartner Felix
  • Audio CD (July 31 2007)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Cpo
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  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #148,791 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)
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Amazon.com: HASH(0x9cd9e348) out of 5 stars 3 reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9cd25aec) out of 5 stars Striking Chamber Music by a Man Known Primarily as a Conductor Aug. 4 2007
By J Scott Morrison - Published on Amazon.com
Felix Weingartner (1863-1942) is remembered as a conductor. His complete traversal of the Beethoven symphonies was the first ever recorded and are still regarded as examples of sane, sensible, and artistically satisfying efforts. As a composer, however, he is remembered only, if at all, as the arranger of an orchestral version of Beethoven's Piano Sonata, Op. 106, 'Hammerklavier', in my opinion a largely ineffective transcription. He was prolific composer from his earliest years. In 1884 while still a student of Liszt his opera 'Sakuntala' was mounted and several others followed. None of them is ever staged these days as far as I know. He wrote at least seven symphonies, two overtures and three Lisztian symphonic poems, as well as a large body of chamber music including five string quartets. The cpo label has favored us with excellent recordings of four of the symphonies. The present CD is the first issue containing chamber music and one hopes it will not be the last.

The Sextet, Op. 33, in E Minor (1906) is for piano, two violins, viola, cello and contrabass. It is in the usual four movements. The first movements is impetuous, sweeping one along in its exuberant emotionality. The second movement, a Scherzo in 2/4 marked allegretto, begins with chordal pizzicati from the strings alternating with a perky tune played by the piano. This is followed by a first trio whose almost saccharine lyrical theme is primarily given out by the first violin in its upper register. The second trio leads into a triumphant return of the initial section. The Adagio is marked 'in the character of an improvisation'. It is dominated by an introverted, musing piano solo that is then lightly accompanied by the strings. The Finale is, oddly, a funeral march. Actually formally it is a rondo that reintroduces material from the three preceding movements, culminating in the appassionato material from the first movement. One cannot know if there is some sort of Lisztian program as subtext for the work, but it seems likely. The Sextet is marked by Weingartner's fecund melodic talent and a strong, if somewhat idiosyncratic, formal sense.

The Octet (1925) is for the same forces as Schubert's great Octet in F, D 803*, but of course written in the chromatic language of Liszt, Wagner and the German late Romantics; it is in all but name a chamber symphony. There is little in it that would have surprised those familiar with the 1906 Sextet. The first movement, Allegro, has the tortured chromaticism of Tristan and I fancy I hear at one point a direct quotation of the Love Death theme. It is possible that this somehow commemorates the death in 1921 of his third wife, the singer Lucille Marcel. The second movement, Andante, is a set of variations on a French song whose lyric include this: 'This is the death that holds my heart in chains / it is the grief for my friend / I die, alas, I die / since you must now go.' The variations become more intensely dramatic as the movement progresses. The third movement, a Minuet, comes as an island of partial relief that is not quite complete because of the aching opening tune played by the horn. The finale, Allegro moderato, opens with uprushing major-key scales, implying a lighter mood but when the main theme arrives, with its trudging accompaniment, one realizes there is bitterness and cynicism here with, perhaps not too strangely, touches of Kurt Weill's then-newly-popular style. Occasional islands of lyricism are repeatedly overwhelmed by the inexorability of the marching feet one thinks may have been inspired by the rise of the National Socialist 'patriots' just then beginning to march in the streets with their calls for Greater Germany's unity and racial purity. One is not surprised to recall that this music was written during the increasing desperation of the Weimar Republic that, in spite of Weingartner's acclaim as a conductor, brought few opportunities for his own music.

The performances by members of Ensemble Acht and pianist Oliver Triendl are all that one could ask for. The dense textures of both pieces, particularly the Octet, are clearly recorded by cpo's engineers.


Scott Morrison

* It's been called to my attention for two sharp-eyed readers that I made a mistake in this statement. Of course, the Schubert uses a double bass rather than a piano as in the Weingartner. Big difference. Sorry about that.

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9cd0339c) out of 5 stars The Dark and Powerful Sextet is a Must-Hear April 20 2016
By Hexameron - Published on Amazon.com
Verified Purchase
Felix Weingartner (1863-1942) needs little introduction as a legendary conductor, but few realize how seriously he pursued composition, writing six symphonies, five string quartets, and innumerable songs. I echo other reviewers here in their emphatic praise of these two chamber works, each bearing the mark of late German Romanticism, namely Brahms, Wagner, and Bruckner.

The gloomy Piano Sextet in E minor (1906) is the greatest of its kind I’ve ever heard, eclipsing the sextets of Lyapunov, Glinka, and even Mendelssohn. Every movement is instilled with strong ideas and memorable content. It opens with an intense “Allegro appassionato” possessing magisterial themes: the first is heroic and striving; the second conveys soaring hope and profundity. Both themes are rich in melodic content. A lighter mood pervades the “Allegretto” with its playful pizzicato melody—so charming and tuneful—and a trio of aching beauty. Things turn sober in the pensive “Adagio,” notable for its gravity and profound harmonic progressions outlined by the piano. Weingartner foregoes the usual spirited finale for an intense “Danza funebre,” a stylized funeral march full of anguish and emotional pangs.

Nearly twenty years later Weingartner would embark on another rarefied chamber genre with his Octet in G major (1925). Despite its major key, the opening “Allegro” is serious, chromatic, and swells with Brucknerian grandeur. Owing to the confident and active piano part, the texture is befitting of a concerto. Wagner would have been pleased by the melodious primary theme, which another reviewer compared to the Liebestod. After some throat clearing, the melancholy “Andante” becomes a passionate outcry of grief, tempered by meditative respites. At this juncture the piece brightens. The “Tempo di minuetto” is coolly relaxed with a warm theme for the solo horn, while the finale is energetic and features an updated palette of whole tones and modern harmony.

Performances and recorded sound are top-notch, as one can expect from CPO. Oliver Triendl is always outstanding and employs tremendous muscle and vigor.

Bottom line: Weingartner’s Sextet is a magnificent full-blooded work of serious expression and drama, brimming with memorable moments that encourage repeated hearings.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9d9548f4) out of 5 stars Two chamber music masterpieces Aug. 24 2014
By ronald b woodall - Published on Amazon.com
I first knew Weingartner as an excellent conductor when I heard his Beethoven and Brahms symphonies on early Columbia LP's; now, sixty years later, I'm privileged to know him as an excellent composer, thanks to cpo Records' releases of many of his works.

Both the Sextet and Octet were written in memory of losses in his life, the recent death of a close friend (the Sextet) and of his wife (the Octet). They both have a tragic undertone, but they are more dramatic than morose, and indeed have many lighter moments. The Sextet's first movement is gorgeous, with immediately attractive themes; the second movement I found to be delightfully witty - an instant favorite. Sadness becomes more evident in the third movement, dispelled only momentarily by an interlude which seems to recall a happier time, and in the powerful finale, a "danza funebre", he realizes his loss in an eloquent Brahmsian manner.

In the slow movement of the Octet, Weingartner had a text which includes the phrase "...it is the grief for my friend" printed over the first violin part. This movement has a fragile beauty of suppressed or tentative emotion. The next movement answers this with a lovely "menuetto", a phrase of which recalls the popular hymn "Grace Greater than our Sin", which was first published in 1911, about a decade before the Octet was written. Only coincidental, or very meaningful? In either case, the ensuing finale is rollicking and good-natured, and with a surprising conclusion.

This is an outstanding release of superb works. The sound is fine, the performances wonderful.