Weingartner: Symphony No. 7 - Letonja

Weingartner: Symphony No. 7 - Letonja

CPO  777 103-2

Stereo/Multichannel Hybrid

Classical - Orchestral

Weingartner: Symphony No. 7 in C major, Op. 88

Maya Boog; Franziska Gottwald; Rolf Romei; Christopher Bolduc; Babette Mondry
Tschechischer Philharmonischer Chor Brunn
Sinfonieorchester Basel
Marko Letonja

Monumental Edition Finale

There is more to Felix Weingartner than the internationally acclaimed conductor and the influential figure who left his mark on Basel’s music life; during the course of his career he also produced an extensive compositional oeuvre. The Basel Symphony Orchestra under the conductor Marko Letonja has recorded this late romanticist’s complete symphonies for cpo. To celebrate the conclusion of this premiere recording, Weingartner’s last symphony was performed live on 15 February 2012 in the Basel City Casino, where the full-length work had experienced its only previous performance seventy years prior to this date. It calls for a full orchestra with three brass instruments each and four horns, a choir, four vocal soloists, and a solo organ. In the second movement Weingartner employs Friedrich Hebbel’s poem Zwei Wanderer, and the texts for the fourth and last movement are a poem by Weingartner’s wife Carmen Studer and Friedrich Hölderlin’s Hymne an die Liebe. Weingartner composed the symphony from 1937 to 1939, that is, after he had left Basel. We are proud to have (re)discovered a German symphonist of the first rank, and Marko Letonja and the Basel Symphony Orchestra have dedicated themselves to this adventurous journey of discovery with commitment and virtuoso talent.

Support this site by purchasing from these vendors using the paid links below.
As an Amazon Associate earns from qualifying purchases.


Add to your wish list | library


5 of 5 recommend this, would you recommend it?  yes | no

Reviews (1)

Review by Graham Williams - February 25, 2013

It has been a wait of almost four years for the final disc in CPO's excellently performed and recorded SACD cycle of the Weingartner symphonies to arrive, so it is good at last to see this courageous enterprise reach a successful completion.

Weingartner composed his final symphony between 1937 and 1939, that is, after he had left his Basel teaching post and returned to a position with the Vienna State Opera, but it did not receive its first performance until 1942 in Basel. This ambitious (some might say too ambitious) four-movement work lasts 62 minutes and calls for a large orchestra, choir, four vocal soloists, and a solo organ.

The opening movement of the symphony somewhat resembles a baroque 'Ouverture' in its structure. It begins with a repeated four-note figure over portentous brass chords and the organ quickly makes its first appearance. The music then changes as an extended and much developed fugue appears on the strings before the eventual return of the opening music and a triumphant conclusion.

Weingartner sets a poem 'Zwei Wanderer', by Friedrich Hebbel for the solemn and moving 'Andante sostenuto' that follows. The first verse of the poem is sung by the baritone Rolf Romei, the second by the alto Franziska Gottwald (a lovely pure voice), the third by both baritone and alto and for the final verse they are joined by the splendid Czech Philharmonic Choir of Brno.

The Scherzo marked 'Allegro apassionato' demonstrates Weingartner's brilliant command of the orchestra and though the music sometimes evokes that of Brahms and Strauss it does also show much original character. It is with the fourth and final movement – lasting as long as the first three together – that one begins to sense that Weingartner has to some extent overreached himself in trying to outdo the achievements of his arch-enemies Mahler and Strauss.

The finale begins with a setting of 'Bald reift zum Abend dein irdischer Tag' (Your earthly day will soon mature into evening), a poem by Carmen Studer, Weingartner's fifth wife – here sung most poignantly by the soprano Maya Boog over a soft organ accompaniment. She is directed to sing it as a 'Voice from above at the organ' – an effect marvellously achieved on this recording. An extended and exceptionally beautiful contemplative passage for orchestra and organ gradually builds in power and intensity, accompanied by trumpet fanfares, until first the tenor and then the other three soloists and choir enter with the main body of the movement. This is a setting of Friedrich Hölderlin’s 'Hymne an die Liebe', a poem set with rather more restraint by Richard Strauss in 1921 as the first of his 'Drei Hymnen' for soprano and orchestra. As the movement progresses one can hardly fail to notice the clear similarities with many passages in Mahler's 8th Symphony. At 24'50” with something of a master-stroke, Weingartner brings back the music of the 1st movement and then he heaps Pelion on Ossa before the symphony's majestic conclusion is reached.

Weingartner’s last symphony was performed live in February 2012 in the Basel City Casino, where the full-length work had experienced its only previous performance seventy years earlier. The recording of that performance – a co-production with by SRF ( Schweizer Radio und Fernsehen) – is most impressive in capturing the scale and impact of the work. The booklet notes include full texts and translations as well as the entertaining if somewhat nebulous notes by Eckhardt van den Haagen. There is no applause or any audience noise on the recording.

Those who respond positively to large scale late-romantic symphonies will be pleased to encounter this undoubtedly imposing work and even those who, like me, are ambivalent about the quality of Weingartner's final symphonic utterance will have no cause for complaint about this committed performance from Marko Letonja and his Basel forces captured in such opulent sound.

Copyright © 2013 Graham Williams and


Sonics (Multichannel):

stars stars