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Le label allemand Thorofon a beau surnommer Robert Fuchs "le romantique oublié", ce sont davantage ces deux symphonies que le compositeur lui-même qui sont tombées dans l'oubli. Fuchs, ce sont des sérénades célèbres, un professeur aux élèves eux-aussi célèbres. Pourquoi donc ces deux symphonies sont-elles si rares ?
A l'écoute de la première symphonie, qui ouvre le disque, on a peine à en croire ses oreilles : voici une oeuvre contemporaine de la troisième symphonie de Brahms... et il y a bien du Brahms dans cette symphonie ; de la septième de Bruckner... et nous sommes très loin de la puissance, de l'architecture de Bruckner... ; de la première de Gustav Mahler, l'élève de Fuchs... et la rupture générationnelle semble abyssale ! Le premier mouvement se place dans un héritage clair : ce premier romantisme de la première moitié du XIXe siècle. Créée en 1884, la symphonie pourrait largement l'avoir été en 1824. La composition est impeccable, bien structurée, orchestrée sans surprise. On reconnaît ci et là des traits empruntés à Brahms. C'est une musique sérieuse, appliquée. Le second mouvement est un intermezzo qui semble venir directement de Mendelssohn. C'est vif, léger, rapide. Le mouvement lent, en troisième position, est calme et posé. Enfin, le final est léger en enlevé, avec de rares élans triomphaux dans la veine de Schumann.
La deuxième symphonie est autrement plus audacieuse, avec une orchestration plus riche, et le premier mouvement s'ouvre sur une fanfare imposante. Ce premier mouvement est hypertrophié (il couvre la moitié de la symphonie). On y entend les qualités habituelles de Fuchs : un sens évident de la mélodie, un talent d'orchestration et de construction, mais aussi un manque de relief et d'originalité. Le mouvement lent n'est ni lent, ni intériosé. Expédié en moins de 5 minutes, il ne se place pas du tout dans une perspective romantique. On pourra largement préférer le menuet qui suit, autrement plus inspiré malgré une forme désuète. Enfin, le final s'efforce de trouver élan et dynamisme, mais cette symphonie n'est pas une symphonie à final.
Romantique oublié, Fuchs ? oublié pour ses symphonies, sans doute. Et la prise de son catastrophique ne permet pas de rendre justice à ces partitions. Un autre disque, publié chez CPO, et comportant les deux mêmes symphonies, est autrement plus intéressant de ce point de vue. Romantique ? On ne trouve ni l'épanchement sentimental des mouvements lents, ni les mouvements finaux triomphaux, ni cette dimension prométhéenne qui font les grandes symphonies romantiques. On se place plutôt dans l'héritage d'un classicisme tardif, à la mode de Spohr. Bref, Fuchs a cinquante ans de retard...
Estamos ante un compositor poco conocido, pero de un nivel superlativo y con una gran inventiva. Si te gusta Mahler y la Secesión Vienesa, este es tu disco. Excelente sonido y excelentes interpretaciones.
If you have any inclination towards 20th century atonal idioms then just check this out. Excellent sound recording although I have no reference to the interpretation. Might I say I find that all aspects of the orchestral pallate to be well represented and audible throughout the nine recorded Symphonies. Upon initial listening, I thought the woodwind scoring to be particularly fine. A small chamber ensemble allowed ample enough time to sing. After living with this set for three years I still itch to put them back on as I find them even more musically important to me. Hopefully you might agree to a certain extent.
None of this seems forced, the composer for me, allowed every instrument in the score a chance to get in on this busy conversation. The interesting aspect is how Mr. Wellesz utilizes such economy of writing to bring lots of light in his sugesstive orchestral colors and this he does beautifully. However most of this is scary dark and it’s fascinating. A difficult read,but very rewarding as a body of concrete music if you keep the lights on.
If you are interested in an incremental progression from Mahler to modern music, Wellesz would probably come one step after Mahler, two steps before Berg. He writes as though he often understood the craftsman's issues better than his more famous peers, though he was admittedly of a somewhat lower rank of genius than they were. He was more of a textbook contrapuntist than any other Schoenberg student (like Anton Webern he was a musicologist who also took lessons with the Master); this is evident from the first movement of the First Symphony, where an angular melody is taken up quite well as a stretto subject, yet every note is quite audible, and the countersubjects support, rather than confuse, the texture. Perhaps his most praiseworthy skill is that of finding just the right contrast between one idea and another; sometimes the nature of new ideas is quite prescient; he can tell you something through the selection of ideas alone. If you like some early Hindemith you might like Wellesz's take on the element of Neo-Classicism that is within the Schoenberg dodecaphonic project; some of the same clarity in phrasing is there; the style is more economic but with a certain amount of the same rhythmic vigor. Wellesz also likes the surprise sudden-tonic ending that typifies Hindemith, and he seems never to have eschewed octave doublings, so there is never the textural edge of the basic 20th Century sound. There is always something of the Fin-de-siecle Vienna mood in this music, no matter how late it was written.
When Wellesz occasionally writes using the twelve-tone system he is not orthodox and it does not constitute a radical departure from his textural and orchestrational norm. He has less than his teacher's tendency to resort to repeated note patterns once he writes using the twelve-tone system; ironically, under some circumstances he is perhaps momentarily more inventive, though less inspired, than Schoenberg. For better or worse, he has greater periodic phrase clarity than others of the New Vienna circle; this is usually welcome, but occasionally there is an over-reliance on formulas; I got tired of the use of the snare drum to articulate mid-level structure. There is an expressive gesture across the symphonies that moves from warmth and vigor to a bleak reserve; the last few symphonies tend toward a structure with a slow finale. He writes well for the instruments, and some of his woodwind and solo counterpoint is truly fine.
This survey of Wellesz's symphonies is superbly performed from scores lovingly recreated by Gottfried Rabl, who describes the generally incomplete if not deplorable state of the Wellesz scores. This is not evident from the excellent performances given by the Radio-Symphonieorchester Wien under Rabl's direction.
This should be a welcome addition to any collection of early modern orchestral music, and something that every student of the New Vienna School should hear. I recommend it.
This is certainly an out-of-the-way disc by a little known composer. I can't say it's one of those undiscovered masterpieces, but the music is pleasant, competently composed, very well played, and superbly recorded. This music is Brahmsian in nature but not as skillfully wrought, harking back even to Schubert in its tonal qualities. Fuchs didn't have mastery of the "big tune" or dramatic tension in the same way those two did, but his music is tuneful and powerfully romantic.
I like Fuchs for his vigorous and harmonically rich compositions, especially his string quartets. This is nearly their equal, but not quite top tier. Sound is excellent if you like a realistic concert hall perspective. Orchestra and conducting seem competent, as I don't hear any obvious flubs. There is some real bite on climaxes, even if the music itself does not generate overwhelming excitement. I would call this comfortable music.
I love Shostakovich and tended to think that he and he only inherited the symphony after World War II. This turns out to be false as Wellesz, while older, was just starting his symphony cycle after World War II. These are distinct essays for orchestra. They never overwhelm, but they do provoke new thought. Therefore they are very worthy of consideration by both the novice and the professional composer (of which the other reviewer appears to be). I simply am a listener and love to explore new pathways in music. The five stars are for Wellesz as a composer and for the Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra under Gottfried Rabl. Both the composer and the people who play him are of the highest quality.
What does Wellesz sound like? Some of the time he sounds like what Bruckner might of sounded like in the 20th century. Maybe not quite as inflated with a bit of atonalism from Berg maybe. He sounds more pessismistic than optimistic as most composers of the 20th century do. His symphonies don't always end with a bang and sometimes end with a whimper instead. Each one of his symphonies do sound original and I am just beginning to learn them. Not only do they sound original, but they sound different from each other which is the mark of great composer too. Hopefully in the 21st century that we now live in he will get more recognition although I wouldn't wait at any concert hall to bring his music anytime soon. That statement probably has more to do with the politics of 20th century music in concert halls these days than anything else.
In conclusion I recommend both Wellesz and the Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra under Rabl in this box set. Welcome a new voice in the post World War II symphonic world!