Symphony No. 5 in C minor, op. 71
Felix Weingartner, Edler von Münzberg
(b. Zadar, 2 June 1863 – d. Winterthur, 7 May 1942)
Symphony No. 5 in C minor, op. 71 (1923-24)
I Allegro agitato (p. 3) – Un poco più lento (p. 10) – Tranquillo – Allegro agitato (p. 13) – Poco maestoso p. 21) –
Allegro agitato (p. 24) – Agitato assai (p. 32) – Meno mosso (p. 34) – Andante – Molto vivace (p. 35)
II Allegro scherzando ma poco moderato (p. 36) – Trio. Andante fluido (p. 43) –
Allegro scherzando ma poco moderato (p. 46)
III Andante solenne (p. 51) – Andante (p. 60) – Molto tranquillo – Poco affrettando (p. 62) –
Tempo primo, largo con forza ed espressione (p. 65)
IV Fuga di due temi. Allegro un poco moderato ma deciso (p. 67) – Un poco maestoso (p. 82) –
Poco affrettando (p. 85) – Ancora un poco più maestoso (p. 86/87)
Considering that he was one of the most capable and highly esteemed conductors of his age, and that he had a flawless command of every facet the composer’s craft (with special brilliance in finely gradated orchestration and delicately balanced large-scale form), Felix Weingartner, a symphonic composer with seven contributions to the genre, was marginalized to an amazing degree even during his lifetime. Thereafter no one took an interest in this unhappily bellicose aesthete, except for those who venerated him as a solid conductor of Beethoven, Brahms, and Liszt. He had even been personally acquainted with the latter two composers and considerably promoted by Liszt in his youth. As a composer, Weingartner was pretty much the opposite of a revolutionary innovator; he clearly upheld the values of classicism and kept everything coarse and gross at arm’s length. One needs to have a cultivated palate and abandon any thought of originality to take a true interest in him, and those who do are a rapidly vanishing minority.
Following a few youthful efforts in the 1870s – a Goethe Idyll for solo voices, chorus, and orchestra (1874), an Overture for String Orchestra (1878), a Festive March, incidental music for Der Verführer von Sevilla – Weingartner’s Serenade for Strings of 1882 (op. 16) was his first orchestral work to make a mark on the public. It already has the Mendelssohnian facility and elegance, sureness of taste, and unfailing sense for balanced proportions that would set him apart from many others in the future. His next orchestral piece was the symphonic poem Das Wunder des Asokabaumes (1884-85), which he later revised and acknowledged. More than a decade was to pass before he then produced King Lear, op. 20 (1896), and Das Gefilde der Seligen (op. 21), which, however, were preceded by three lengthy operas. Only then did the now thirty-five-year-old composer venture so to speak “into the circle of the elect” with his First Symphony in G major (op. 23), thereby straightaway linking arms with Beethoven and his successors, though he would not have admitted it. One year later came the Second Symphony in E-flat major (op. 29), composed from 1897 to 1899. But yet another decade had to pass – a decade that witnessed the monumental effort of his operatic trilogy Orestes after Aeschylus, op. 30 (1900-01) and many other works – before he wrote his Third Symphony in E major with organ ad libitum, op. 49 (1909-10). Then came the magical Violin Concerto, op. 52 (1911), the Merry Overture, op. 53 (1911-12, his most frequently played piece), the concert overture Aus ernster Zeit, op. 56 (1914), and the Cello Concerto, op. 60 (ca. 1916), before he composed his Fourth Symphony in F major (1916-17). It was followed six years later by the Fifth Symphony in C minor, op. 71 (1923), with its mighty fugal finale, the Sixth Symphony (1927-28), the six short and light-hearted orchestral pieces called La Burla, op. 78 (1929-30), the splendid symphonic poem in a set of variations entitled Spring, op. 80 (1930-31), the Sinfonietta for string trio and small orchestra, op. 83 (1934), the Seventh Symphony for orchestra, organ, solo voices, and chorus (1935-39, the impressive crown of his orchestral output), and the five Pieces from Japan, op. 91 (1938).
Weingartner’s Fifth Symphony originated at roughly the same time as his famous orchestration of Beethoven’s Hammerklavier Sonata and betrays his deep study of that master’s monumental style – not only in the fugue. Together with its introverted counterpart, the Sixth Symphony (a paean to Schubert), it is his most substantial and original contribution to the genre. He completed it in the Sicilian town of Montechiaro in August 1924 and gave the première in Edinburgh with the Scottish Orchestra (the predecessor of today’s Royal Scottish National Orchestra) in autumn 1924, most likely at the beginning of December, with a repeat performance in Glasgow. As the archivist of the RSNO failed to respond to the present author’s several inquires and refused to provide information, we cannot state the exact date of the première. Two live Glasgow performances of the Scottish Orchestra under Weingartner, dated 2 and 9 December 1924, are mentioned online, but it is unknown which works he conducted. As he later recalled, The Times ran a rousing review of the new piece, ending with the words (in his translation), “The music is truly grand and inspired and was recognized and perceived as such.” Before the symphony appeared in print from Simrock in 1926, Weingartner undertook a few revisions to tighten up the form. He dedicated the new piece to his wife Roxo Betty. But no matter how strong its original impact may have been, the symphony quickly fell into oblivion and only resurfaced when the Basel Symphony Orchestra, under Marko Letonja, recorded it for cpo in October 2006 as parts of its complete edition of the Weingartner symphonies. It is to be hoped that the work will be heard more frequently in the future.
Christoph Schlüren, December 2016
For performance materials please contact the publisher Boosey & Hawkes, Berlin (www.boosey.com).
210 x 297 mm