Serenade in F for string orchestra Op. 6 (new edition)
Felix Weingartner, Baron von Münzberg
(b. Zadar, 2 June 1863 – d. Winterthur, 7 May 1942)
Serenade in F major for string orchestra, op. 6 (1882)
I Andante, quasi allegretto p. 1
II Intermezzo. Allegro ma non troppo p. 4
III Andante sostenuto p. 6
IV Molto vivace – Poco più lento (tranquillo) – Tempo I – Poco largo – Presto p. 8
Before traveling to Leipzig at the age of eighteen, Felix Weingartner had already studied in Graz with Wilhelm Mayer (1831-1898), a teacher of Busoni known by the pseudonym of W. A Rémy. In Leipzig he originally intended to study philosophy but quickly chose to devote himself entirely to music. In 1883 he enrolled at Leipzig Conservatory, where one of his teachers was Carl Reinecke, and was fortunate enough to become one of the last pupils of Franz Liszt in Weimar. It was Liszt who helped him prepare the première of his first stage work, Sakuntala (op. 9), in 1884. In the same year he accepted his first conductor’s position in Königsberg, the start of a magnificent conducting career.
As a composer, Weingartner had already tried his hand at large challenges while still a young man. His first five works with opus numbers are sets of piano pieces. They were followed by his first orchestral work, the present Serenade, op. 6, scored for strings alone to minimize the demands on his powers of orchestration. Later he composed a good deal of chamber music, including two violin sonatas (op. 42), two string trios, five string quartets, a string quintet, a piano sextet, a quintet for clarinet, string trio and piano, and an octet for clarinet, horn, bassoon, string quartet and piano, but never again did he create a work for string orchestra. One of the leading composer-conductors of his age, alongside Bülow, Nikisch, Strauss, Mahler, Pfitzner, and Furtwängler, his principal instrument from the 1890s was the full orchestra, for which he wrote an impressive body of music: seven symphonies, four symphonic poems, a violin concerto, a cello concerto, a Sinfonietta for string trio and orchestra, orchestral songs, overtures, variations, Pictures from Japan (op. 91), incidental music for Shakespeare’s Tempest, Goethe’s Faust, and his own mystery play Terra: a Symbol, a completion of Schubert’s sketches for a symphony in E major, and orchestral arrangements of Beethoven’s “Hammerklavier” Sonata and Bizet’s Variations chromatiques. No less important is the role of the full orchestra in his voluminous and highly ambitious body of operas, notably the tragic trilogy Orestes. His five early sets of piano pieces were followed by only one further work for the piano: Herbstblättern (op. 58). In contrast, he produced thirty-five volumes of lieder, spanning his entire career in an unbroken series from his first cycle (op. 7) to Rome (op. 90).
Weingartner composed his Serenade for String Orchestra, op. 6, in Leipzig in autumn 1892 for his teacher Oscar Paul (1836-1898), best known for his work as a theorist. The composer left behind little information about the work: “In autumn of that same year I wrote a little piece for orchestra, a Serenade. It, too, was given a run-through by Jahrow’s dutiful musicians. Professor Paul recommended the little work for one of the evening gatherings, where it was performed.” It is therefore safe to assume that the première took place in 1882 while Weingartner was still in Leipzig. Whatever the case, Hans von Bülow was also prompted to conduct the piece. In the same year it was published in full score and parts by Ries & Erler. The present volume is a new print issued in 2013, with parts available from Musikproduktion Höflich. The first commercial sound recording was made by the Basel Symphony Orchestra, who recorded it in Basel Casino under the baton of Marko Letonja in 2003 (SACD, cpo 777 098-2, released in 2005).
This little work by a nineteen-year-old composer still fully tied to tradition is a charming and balanced contribution to a genre that enjoyed great popularity at the time. The aim of our new edition is to foster more frequent performances of a work that is not only suitable for seasoned ensembles, but also (perhaps with a few judicious cuts in the virtuosic finale) playable by the many amateur chamber orchestras whose conductors are desperately searching for tuneful
and technically feasible new literature. Among the most popular predecessors of Weingartner’s Serenade, besides Mozart’s pioneering Eine kleine Nachtmusik, are the string serenades by Robert Volkmann, Peter Tchaikovsky, Antonín Dvořák, Robert Fuchs, and the young Josef Suk. Those by Weingartner’s contemporary Hugo Wolf (Italian Serenade for string quartet or small orchestra), Edward Elgar, Vasily Kalinnikov, Arthur Foote, and Emil Nikolaus von Reznicek all originated at a later date.
As befits its title and genre, Weingartner’s Serenade is a lightweight, humorously picturesque little work written with a tight motivic fabric and a perfect balance of scale, technique, and expression. The relaxed opening movement sensitively interweaves themes and figuration; the Intermezzo takes flight with a robust bourdon texture (note Weingartner’s invariably precise notation of the durations: eighth-notes, for example, should always be clearly distinguishable from quarter-notes). A noble, mellifluous counterpoint permeates the Andante sostenuto, the centerpiece of the work and a prime example of romanticized classicism en miniature. In the finale, the Molto vivace section with its dotted triplets (the dots are always ternary although this is not clear from the notation) is twice contrasted with a sempre molto ligato interlude to provide formal tension. The interlude should not be taken too broadly: its first occurrence has no instruction to slow the tempo at all (we therefore advise easing the tempo only slightly to accommodate the sound), while the second is only marked etwas langsamer (a bit slower). Each of the four movements, in particular the Andante sostenuto, may be played separately.
Tranlation: Bradford Robinson
For performance materials please contact Musikproduktion Höflich, Repertoire Explorer (www.musikmph.de), Munich
225 x 320 mm