Karl Weigl String Quartets pure Post-romantic goodness

For most of his career, Karl Weigl built on the Romantic tradition of Fin de Siecle Vienna. But he wasn’t a reactionary. In 1904 he co-founded the Society of Creative Musicians with Alexander Zemlinsky and Arnold Schoenberg.

And that’s what makes this release so fascinating. Weigl’s music remained Post-Romantic throughout his life, up to his death in 1949. His final two quartets, though, are quite different.

The quartets were not written for any commission, nor for any particular artist or ensemble. They were never published, nor is there any indication that Weigl intended them to be.

He seems to have composed these works for himself. And what a revelation. The quartets push tonality to the extreme — without completely abandoning it. Dissonances are extreme and frequent. The melodies have wide leaps, and there’s a great deal of chromatic motion.

Weigl seems to be moving beyond Schoenberg’s “Verklartche Nacht” (albeit bout 20 years later). Still, these quartets show a major shift in Weigl’s aesthetic. The works were composed at the end of Weigl’s life. To me, they hint at what might have been had he lived a little longer.

The Thomas Christian Ensemble performs with sensitivity and beauty. They don’t shy away from Weigl’s dissonances while maintaining the expressive lyricism of the music. This is deeply personal music as the quartet’s intimate performances suggest.

Karl Weigl: String Quartets Nos. 7 and 8
Thomas Christian Ensemble

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