HANS WINTERBERG (1901-1991): Symphony No. 1 “Sinfonia Drammatica” (Karl List [conductor]. June 2, 1955), Symphony No. 2 (Jan Koetsier [conductor]. Dec. 19, 1952), Ballade um Pandora (Rudolf Alberth [conductor]. Jan. 3, 1959), Symphonischer Epilog (Fritz Rieger [conductor. June 13, 1956), Symphonisch Reiseballade (Bamberg Symphony; Joseph Strobl. Sept. 19, 1963), Stationen 1974/1975 (Bamberg Symphony; Rainer Mieden. Sept. 24, 1975).
Catalogue Number: 12V001
Reference: PIR 0054/55
Description: It is increasingly apparent that the stunning introduction to Winterberg's music on disc afforded by the First Sonata (06U012) was far from being a fluke, and that he was a remarkable and wholly original composer of the highest quality (and much more than a fascinating, bizarre, and unique story of artistic suppression in the years surrounding WW II). These recordings from Bavarian Radio hail from the post- war years after Winterberg established himself in Munich and was enjoying a significant revival of his career (prior to the total eclipse that followed his death in 1991). The general trajectory suggested by the survey of his piano works that we offered in September (09V046) seems to be confirmed; the early works are tough and highly dissonant, becoming progressively more explicitly tonal (not that Winterberg ever embraced anything beyond a high level of chromaticism at any stage) and definitely Czech-sounding after c.1940. These are emerging aspects of a remarkably consistent idiom, though; Winterberg clearly knew exactly what he was aiming for very early on, and had ample means to express it. Lightweight and frivolous do not seem to have been in his vocabulary - scarcely surprising, given the circumstances under which he was brought up and the displacements that he later suffered. The First Symphony, of 1936, is a terse, compressed single span, redolent throughout of the tensions and dangers of Europe at the time. Its themes sound like alarums and premonitions, and nostalgic recollections of tranquility menaced by fanfares and ominous tramping feet. The Second was written in 1943, when the warnings of the First were being horribly fulfilled. It is a large (32 minute) work in three movements, a powerful and dramatic war symphony that without exaggeration can be said to belong in the company of the finest acknowledged examples of the genre. The first movement begins with a nervous descending motif, fearful and full of foreboding, and the themes of the first subject group are ominous and tense. In the movement’s extended development this pent-up aggression boils over into open conflict. The middle movement has an eerie, haunted quality, a shell-shocked, empty landscape full of drifting mists and the mournful memories of phantoms. The finale is a kaleidoscopic succession of scenes that form a cohesive whole, incorporating reminiscences of earlier material. The movement has a nervous energy, but is relieved by many episodes of almost pastoral beauty, perhaps pointing to hope for the future. An affinity with Martinů and Janáček can be clearly felt in this movement. The 1951 Symphonic Epilogue is a darkly dramatic orchestral scena, brooding and vehement, with some strange, striking similarities to the orchestral episodes from Busoni's Doktor Faust. Likely coincidental, but in any case this is very much the world that this powerful work inhabits. The 1970s saw no diminution of Winterberg’s powers; the three movements of Stationem - Ante Vindobonam (an apparent reference to a Roman settlement that preceded modern-day Vienna, the music suggesting Respighi's legions on the battlefield), Aria infinita (a mysterious slow movement), and Toccata fantastica (dramatic, with the emphasis on the fantastical) - are small tone poems of considerable heft. The forty-minute "Choreographic Vision" on the Pandora myth is a kind of phantasmagorical ballet, featuring various Ancient Greek deities, numerous personified vices and the humans they afflict. The music is approachable and accessible, though with a slightly uncomfortable hard-edged, sardonic, surrealistic anti-romantic modernistic mien. Much the same might be said of the 'Travel Ballad' from ten years later, for which the composer provided surreal staging directions having something to do with a time-travelling mail coach. The music is grimly humorous, full of moments of incongruously overblown drama, clearly intended to mock - something or other, unspecified.