Wetz: Symphony No. 3 in B flat; Gesang des Lebens

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COMPOSERS: Wetz
LABELS: CPO
WORKS: Symphony No. 3 in B flat; Gesang des Lebens
PERFORMER: Rheinland Pfalz State PO & Youth Chorus/Werner Andreas Albert
CATALOGUE NO: 999 818-2
While listening to Richard Wetz’s Third and final Symphony, you have to put out of your mind the

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fact that the work was written during the early years of the Weimar Republic. Indeed Wetz’s musical language remains as far removed from the modernist outlook of the period as one could imagine, instead retaining strong links with the 19th-century symphonic tradition, as promulgated most obviously by Anton Bruckner.

And yet for all its stylistically retrospective qualities, such darkly pessimistic music seems to mirror the feeling of anxiety that had affected all conservative-orientated German musicians at the end of the First World War. This is particularly the case with the mournful slow movement which begins with the most extraordinarily menacing subterranean textures. The deeply affecting lament that follows seems to cast a shadow over the rest of the work with the bitterly twisted folk-dance harmonies of the ensuing scherzo offering little respite from the pervading feeling of gloom. Even the ultimate transformation of the Symphony’s urmotif into the major at the close of the finale sounds deliberately unconvincing – very much a hollow victory.

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In almost every respect the new CPO version of this powerful symphony is to be preferred to the pioneering 1981 Berlin recording recently reissued on the Sterling label. The orchestral playing is far more secure, and Werner Andreas Albert does a superb job in guiding one through the turbulent ebb and flow of Wetz’s musical argument. Erik Levi