Karl Weigl 1934 Cello Concerto present to the world

Volume two of CPO’s “Cello Concertos by Exiled Jewish Composers” features music by Karl Weigl. Given Weigl’s prominence in Vienna, it’s surprising he’s so little-known today.

Weigl was Mahler’s rehearsal pianist. He co-founded a concert series with Arnold Schoenberg and Bruno Walter. He studied with Robert Fuchs and taught Wolfgang Erich Korngold. And yet he was forced to leave Austria in 1938, relocating to New York City. The move essentially derailed his career.

Most of the work on this release was never performed in public — including the cello concerto. Philosophically, Weigl meant to build on the foundations of Brahms and Wagner, rather than breaking with them like his colleagues Schoenberg and Berg.

The 1934 Cello Concerto is tonal, but it waffles between G minor and B-flat major. To my ears, it had the smooth flowing textures of Edward Elgar mixed with the fluid harmonies of Bohuslav Martinu.

Cellist Raphel Wallfisch delivers a terrific performance. He exploits the ambiguities of the score to full dramatic effect. The rich, sonorous sound of his cello seems appropriate this slightly (but deliberately) tonally unfocussed work.

The Sonata for Cello and Piano, written in 1923, is more closely related to Brahms. Weigl’s melodies exude emotion, alive with lyrical spontaneity.

Wallfish’s playing exudes warmth, adding to the beauty of the work. Pianist Edward Rushton is an equal partner, keeping the thick, cascading harmonies in balance with the cello’s single line.

The remaining works on the album were among those never publicly performed. The Two Pieces for Cello and Piano are short and sweet, as is the Menuetto for Cello and Piano.

The latter Weigl arranged from the slow movement of his viola sonata. It translates well, giving the cello an opportunity to really sing.

There’s no sophomore slump here. Wallfisch and colleagues give us another solid entry in this series.

Karl Weigl: Cello Concerto; Cello Sonata
Cello Concertos from Exile, Vol. 2
Raphel Wallfisch, cello
John York, Edward Rushton, piano
Konzerthausorchester Berlin; Nicholas Milton, conductor

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