Weill: Symphony No. 1; Symphony No. 2

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COMPOSERS: Weill
LABELS: Koch Schwann
WORKS: Symphony No. 1; Symphony No. 2
PERFORMER: Krakow PO/Roland Bader
CATALOGUE NO: 3-1355-2 Reissue (1990, 1989)
The two Symphonies effectively span Weill’s composing career in Germany, yet the works inhabit radically different worlds. In the First, written before Weill began his studies with Busoni, the musical idiom is clearly indebted to German late Romanticism, in particular Mahler and Schoenberg. But by the time of the Second Symphony Weill had gravitated towards a more linear neo-classical mode of expression that in places is closer to Hindemith and Stravinsky.

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Curiously enough, the stylistic contrasts between the two symphonies are rather smoothed out in these performances. One major reason for this is Bader’s decision to adopt terribly ponderous speeds for all the three movements of the Second, thus draining the music of much of its manic urgency in the opening Allegro molto, and lending an unduly lugubrious feeling to the ensuing Largo. The First Symphony makes a more convincing impact under Bader’s weighty direction, though the performance as a whole is marred by some dubious woodwind intonation and sluggish ensemble.

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For an impressive and far more incisive modern recording of the Second, I would opt for Mariss Jansons and the Berlin Philharmonic on EMI. If you want both symphonies, however, try Gary Bertini and the BBC Symphony Orchestra (also on EMI), although the sound is a little dated. Erik Levi