Woldemar Bargiel was the half-brother of Clara Schumann, and given his interest in music, it is not surprising that he became part of the Schumann circle. His compositions were described as pale copies of the great composers, including his brother-in-law, which is perhaps unkind but not entirely unjustified. His later works resist the pull of the late-Romantics, such as Mahler and Strauss, looking to Brahms and back to Beethoven, Haydn and Schubert.
My first encounter with his music was fairly recent, as part of my survey of piano trios. Trio Parnassus have recorded his three piano trios on two MDG CDs, which are now difficult to obtain. You can obtain readily them as downloads, but they do not come with a booklet. I amRead more generally resistant to this situation, especially where the composer is little known, but the samples of the trios that I heard were sufficiently encouraging to persuade me into a purchase. As far as I can tell, this is the first review on this site of Bargiel’s music.
The Prometheus overture was written while Bargiel was studying at Leipzig Conservatory. There is little doubt that it owes much to Beethoven’s similarly named overture, though Liszt’s tone poem Prometheus may also have had some influence. At over eighteen minutes, there is no doubt that it stretches its material too far, but it does have some splendid melodies. The orchestration is not as interesting as the other works presented here.
The premiere of Overture to a tragedy was conducted by Bargiel’s teacher, Julius Rietz, and led Hans von Bülow to write “Bargiel can claim the highest rank among Schumann’s followers after Joseph Joachim”. It was originally titled Overture to Romeo and Juliet, but changed before publication because it simply doesn’t have the emotional depth suited to the play. It has stylistic links to Schumann’s Manfred overture, but is a fine work in its right.
The Medea overture was his big success, with numerous performances around Germany and further afield, and led to his appointment as director of the music school in Rotterdam. The booklet links it to Schumann, though I more hear Mendelssohn. It builds from an ominously quiet opening into a series of increasingly dramatic surges, separated by short darkly lyrical moments. Personally, I prefer the Overture to a tragedy, but I can understand why it was so successful in its time.
The Symphony, with the exception of the second movement, is very much a case of “spot the influence”. The first movement, is very, very Beethovenian: imagine a blend of the fifth, sixth and seventh symphonies. Some of the melodies sound as though they are direct borrowings. The slow second movement is fortunately more original, though it does include what could be construed as a funeral march. It has a number of quite beautiful melodies, and some very appealing orchestral colours from the woodwinds and horns, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The Menuett that follows might be mistaken for an abandoned Schubert piece, while the final Allegro molto owes much to Haydn, though as reorchestrated by Beethoven. Lest I sound too critical, it is worth bearing in mind that Brahms, only five years younger than Bargiel, had not completed his first symphony by this time, and when he did, there was obvious homage to Beethoven in it as well.
In its early days, Naxos was known for using journeyman orchestras from eastern Europe, but even they didn’t go as far as Toccata has done recently, with a number of recordings based in the Siberian city of Omsk. The orchestra goes by two names: the the Omsk Philharmonic Orchestra at home (and on their website) and the Siberian Symphony Orchestra abroad. The performances are well beyond serviceable – I very much doubt we are likely to get another recording of these works soon, but it would take one of the top orchestras to make much more of this music.
The booklet is written by Dean Cáceres, who has written a biography of Bargiel, and hence provides comprehensive and informative notes. The sound quality is excellent, the delicate orchestral colours well defined and the climaxes imposing.
Symphony in C majorby Woldemar Bargiel Conductor:
Siberian Symphony Orchestra
Overture to a Tragedyby Woldemar Bargiel Conductor:
Siberian Symphony Orchestra
Prometheus Overtureby Woldemar Bargiel Conductor:
Siberian Symphony Orchestra
Medea Overtureby Woldemar Bargiel Conductor:
Siberian Symphony Orchestra
Average Customer Review: ( 3 Customer Reviews )
Mid-century romantic masterworksMay 15, 2015By Ralph Graves (Hood, VA)See All My Reviews"Music talent definitely ran in the family. Woldemar Bargiel wasn't just a well-respected composer. He was also the half-brother of Clara Wieck Schumann, a pianist and composer of no mean ability herself. Woldemar also won the respect of her husband Robert. He also worked closely with Brahms, co-editing editions of works by Chopin and Schumann. Toccata Classics begin their traversal of Bargeil's orchestral music with a major work and three characteristic ones. Bargiel's 1864 Symphony in C major seems a little old-fashioned, reminding me of Mendelssohn's first symphony written 20 years before. Like that work, the influence of Beethoven is easy to hear. Still, Bargiel's symphony is a well-crafted work, delivering on the drama and heightened emotions that dominated the Romantic aesthetic. And Bargiel carefully develops his motifs, bringing them through to logical and satisfying conclusions. I can't wait for volume two!"Report Abuse
Very interesting music from a gifted composer durFebruary 24, 2015By Warren Harris See All My Reviews"This CD features four orchestral works from Woldemar Bargiel, a well-known composer during his lifetime (1828-1897). Bargiel was Clara Schumanns half-brother, and this provided him the opportunity to refine his musical gifts working with Claras husband Robert. Bargiel, as indicated in the well-written liner notes, studied at the Leipzig Conservatory on the recommendation of Mendelssohn where he worked with Hauptmann, David, and others. At his final examination he had the first movement of an octet for strings performed by Joseph Joachim as first violin (another Brahms connection). As for the music, I found it very interesting. The Symphony in C Major, Op. 30, is very Beethovian in the way the strings are utilized to build tension, but there are elements of Schumans music in the work as well. The Overture to a Tragedy, Op. 18, starts with dark low strings, but takes on characteristics of both Beethoven and Brahms at various points, the usage of the clarinet feeling particularly like Brahms as does the way the strings accompany. The Overture to Prometheus, Op. 16, definitely starts off with a Beethoven-like nobility and lovely horn work from the Siberian Symphony Chorus this piece is the closest to Beethoven on the recording and maintains that feel throughout the work, which also features a lovely and richly noble ending. The last piece, Overture to Medea, Op. 22, begins darkly and is definitely Brahmsian in mood and overall tone. The strings really get a workout in this piece, and the results are glorious. Kudos to Conductor Dmitry Vasilyev and the Siberian Symphony Orchestra, who make music fabulously from the first note to the last, and the recording quality is excellent. This was a wonderful musical adventure, as I was not previously familiar with Bargiel I am very much looking forward to Volume Two in this series. Strongly recommended."Report Abuse
Symphony in C : Similar feel and Spirit of BeethoJanuary 29, 2015By D. Mendez See All My Reviews"His orchestral writings, in particular the Symphony in C has a similar feel and spirit of Beethoven. First time I heard his Symphony I thought Beethoven had written it; but then, as I listened more I knew it wasn't. But of the possible composers that had a similar feel to Beethoven's writings like: Shubert, Brahms, and Shumann I couldn't determine from memory a work similar to this Symphony. The work is grand and splendid with the concentration and intensity of Beethoven! A real gem, and masterpiece! Woldemar Bargiel Symphonic work should be in the Orchestral repertoire of every institution."Report Abuse