Karl Weigl Symphonies Nos. 4 & 6 — Before and After

Austrian composer Karl Weigl was certainly steeped in the Viennese Post-Romantic style. He studied privately with Alexander Zemlinsky, and later with Robert Fuchs.

Weigl fled the Nazis in 1938, emigrating to the United States. Like many of exiled Viennese composers (such as Korngold), Weigl never quite moved past the boundaries set by Mahler.

The two symphonies in this release are both in Weigl’s distinctive Post-Romantic style. Yet there are small but distinctive differences between them, perhaps reflecting changes circumstances.

The Symphony 4 in F minor was completed in 1936. Weigl was enjoying a successful career in Vienna, although that would soon begin to change. To me, the work greatly resembles Mahler’s symphonies in the overall sound. The expansive melodies make big, dramatic gestures. The music has a gravitas that indicates this is serious stuff. And yet I’d characterize this as perhaps scaled-back Mahler. The scope just isn’t quite as grand.

That’s not a complaint. Weigl’s music is well-constructed and does just what he means it to. The same is true of the 1947 Symphony No. 6. Weigl wrote this after the war, and two years before his death. Although he doesn’t fully abandon tonality, the harmonies seem more abrasive.

The mood is much darker than that of the Fourth Symphony. Weigl’s growth as a composer between the two symphonies is substantial. And hearing the two works back-to-back highlight that development.

The Deutsche Staatsphilharmonie Rheinland-Pfalz performs these works well. Directed by Jürgen Bruns, the orchestra leans into the Viennese character of the music. In the Fourth Symphony, it shows the love Weigl had for his home. And in the acerbic Sixth Symphony, it becomes a deep longing for a time and place he can never return to.

Highly recommended.

Karl Weigl: Symphony Nos. 4 & 6
Deutsche Staatsphilharmonie Rheinland-Pfalz; Jürgen Bruns, conductor
Capriccio C5385 

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