Wellesz: Symphony No. 3; Symphony No. 5

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COMPOSERS: Wellesz
LABELS: CPO
ALBUM TITLE: Wellesz – Symphonies
WORKS: Symphony No. 3; Symphony No. 5
PERFORMER: Vienna RSO/Gottfried Rabl
CATALOGUE NO: 999 999-2
Egon Wellesz’s Third Symphony has an interesting performance history. Initially written for the LPO and Sir Adrian Boult in the early 1950s, its world premiere was aborted by the BBC, the work having to wait another 50 years before receiving a successful first airing in Vienna. Yet there’s nothing particularly controversial about the music, even if the predominance of Brucknerian stylistic fingerprints – in particular strongly defined unison passages and powerful brass chorales – may not have endeared Wellesz to the British musical establishment at the time.

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Whatever the reasons for its initial rejection, the Third proves to be a very accessible piece notable for its brilliantly scored and rhythmically dynamic Scherzo. In contrast, the Fifth Symphony is a much darker and more forbidding composition strongly influenced by Wellesz’s teacher Schoenberg. Both works are extremely well served by the persuasive and committed interpretations of Gottfried Rabl and the Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra, and the clearly defined recording helps to illuminate the complexities of Wellesz’s scoring. Erik Levi