Weill: Symphonies Nos 1 & 2 etc (Swedish CO/Gruber)
Swedish Chamber Orchestra/HK Gruber (BIS)
Symphonies Nos. 1 & 2; Der Silbersee – excerpts
Swedish Chamber Orchestra/HK Gruber
BIS BIS-2579 (CD/SACD) 58:43 mins
You wait for a new recording of Kurt Weill’s Fantaisie symphonique (Symphony No. 2) and then two excellent versions follow in swift succession: hot on the heels of the Ulster Orchestra (Somm) comes the Swedish Chamber Orchestra (SCO), providing another reminder of the importance of this carefully crafted work. Composed in the aftermath of Hitler’s rise to power, the three-movement symphony straddles bleakness and optimism, with delineated motivic development built throughout various sub‑movements.
The SCO brings out the bittersweet melodies in the first movement and displays restraint in the expansive Largo. There is merely a whisper (the third movement’s military march; in which SCO winds dazzle) of the camp cabaret heard in Weill’s Weimar-era – that was portioned-off into Der Silbersee, a musical theatre piece written around the same time. Excerpts are featured here, with spoken and sung parts taken up by SCO conductor HK Gruber, whose diction and delivery is flawless. As Gruber warns listeners to tighten their belts another notch in ‘Der Bäcker backt ums Morgenrot’, his comforting tone ultimately dissipates: ‘It’ll work out, it always does’ is transformed into ‘you think it will work out and in the end it doesn’t’. Later, his cackle cuts off the SCO as it finishes sashaying through Weill’s subversive tango.
The subsequent Symphonie in einem Satz is a sophisticated piece of juvenilia, composed when Weill was 21 and not performed until after the composer’s untimely passing. The SCO are taut in this sprawling, tangent-finding single-movement symphony.