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Hermann Hans Wetzler: Visionen Op. 12, Assisi Op. 13

Release Date: 10/27/2009 
Label:  Cpo   Catalog #: 777412   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Hermann Hans WetzlerHermann Hans Wetzler
Conductor:  Frank Beermann
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Robert Schumann Philharmonic
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

WETZLER Visionen. Assisi Frank Beermann, cond; Robert Schumann P cpo 777 412 (54:32)

With a handful of its regular second-tier orchestras, inquisitive musicologists digging through archives, and thanks to the German system of public radio broadcasts, the label cpo has carved out a fascinating niche in the classical music market. “Music by the wayside,” you might call it, which is especially true for Romantic music that makes great budgetary demands and isn’t as easily performed (and financed) as some Read more one-to-a-part Baroque rarity. Hermann Hans Wetzler (1870–1943) is a recent unearthing, and surely one of the more worthy ones.

Wetzler’s biography finds him led back and forth between Germany (where he was born) and the United States (the home of his parents since 1848 and place of his death). As a student, back in Frankfurt again, he may have had lessons from Clara Schumann, he did have lessons from Engelbert Humperdinck, and he studied alongside Hans Pfitzner. Early musical adventures in the U.S. were not much more successful than his attempt to construct airplanes. At least he managed to finance and tour the “Wetzler Symphony Orchestra” for three seasons between 1902 and 1905—a series of concerts that included Richard Strauss premiering his Sinfonia domestica on the fourth floor of the Wanamaker department store.

This disc contains the 1923 Visions , op. 12, and the 1925 Assisi legend for orchestra, op. 13—sumptuous works for large orchestra, both. The “Introduzione” of op. 12 is faintly suggestive of Stravinskian rhythms and angularity—something he leaves behind after just four minutes when he launches into the impossibly lyrical, beautiful Adagio (named after a Michelangelo sonnet) that Wagner would not have disowned. “Risonanza,” with its massive orchestral peak, is also strongly resonant of the most melodic moments in Parsifal. The blustery “Scherzo demoniac” is very intent on creating contrast; the “Intermezzo ironico” is a lighter episode where Wetzler editorializes about “tasteless” use of modern elements like jazz trumpets, oriental effects, and popular dance rhythms. It’s not the irony-out-of-uncertainty Mahler employs, it’s a snide and sneering comment uttered with great self-righteousness. If you think too much about it, it could have the same effect as reading a seethingly ironic 1913 editorial on how “qualified” women are to vote. Better not think about it and instead enjoy the irony that there is nothing ironic about his once-loaded musical statement anymore.

The Assisi movements (“Loneliness,” “Death-Knells,” “Easter Morning,” “Sermon of the Birds,” “Sister Sun,” “Brother Death”) are character pieces, the most striking of which are the two central ones: “Easter Morning”—given its thematic associations, not surprisingly sounds like a really good Parsifal act III paraphrase. The other is Assisi’s prayer, a cello cantilena amid birdcalls that sound like very literal precursors of what Messiaen would perfect just a few years later—even if the distance between Wetzler and Messiaen feels more like 100, not 10 years.

No allowances need to be made to enjoy Wetzler’s music, as is often the case with B- and C-list composers. This is unusually good stuff, if you like the late-Romantic Gestus . It helps to have the Robert Schumann Philharmonic at work here, because this orchestra, which is Chemnitz’s opera and symphonic band, is one of the finest on the cpo roster. It is one of the most engaged and engaging in Romantic repertoire (in both the obscure and the standard stuff) and it punches well above its weight when called upon. I’ve been greatly impressed by it live (Chemnitz has a surprisingly terrific opera house), and I am impressed on this recording too. Frank Beermann is lucky to stand at the helm of an orchestra that could make any conductor sound good. (Compare, for example, cpo’s recording of Reznicek’s Symphony No. 1 with Beermann and the Frankfurt [Oder] orchestra; reviewed by Jerry Dubins in 32:6.) The extent of the conductor’s contribution is difficult to ascertain; the fact that there isn’t an obvious “interpretation” going on here could well be interpreted to his credit.

FANFARE: Jens F. Laurson
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Works on This Recording

Visionen, Op. 12 by Hermann Hans Wetzler
Conductor:  Frank Beermann
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Robert Schumann Philharmonic
Assisi, Op. 13 by Hermann Hans Wetzler
Conductor:  Frank Beermann
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Robert Schumann Philharmonic

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