Sarastro Quartet: Felix Weingartner String Quartet 3

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Felix Weingartner - String Quartet No. 3 (1903)
Performed by the Sarastro Quartet.

I. Allegro Comodo - 00:00
II. Allegro Molto - 12:06
III. Poco Adagio - Allegro Giocoso - 20:50

Wilhelm Altmann in his Handbook for String Quartet Players called this work a masterpiece of quartet technique, and, indeed, it is a powerful, impressive work on several counts. Weingartner's style shows the influence of Wagner and combines late Romanticism with early Modernism. It can be said to share a great deal in common with such contemporaries as Richard Strauss and Mahler.

Felix Weingartner (1863-1942) was born in Zara, Dalmatia, today's Zadar, Croatia, to Austrian parents. In 1883, he went to the Leipzig Conservatory where he studied composition with Carl Reinecke. He also studied privately with Franz Liszt in Weimar. Weingartner was one of the most famous and successful conductors of his time, holding positions in Hamburg, Mannheim, Danzig, Munich, Berlin and Vienna, where he succeeded Gustav Mahler as Director of the Imperial Opera. Despite his demanding career as a conductor, Weingartner, like Mahler, thought of himself equally as a composer and devoted considerable time to composition. He wrote several symphonies, numerous operas, some instrumental concertos, and a considerable amount of chamber music, including four string quartets, a piano sextet and a string quintet. Additionally he wrote a great number of vocal works and instrumental sonatas. Though many of his works originally achieved a fair amount acclaim, they quickly disappeared from the concert stage. It is only in the past few years that their excellence has been rediscovered.

Deutsch: Porträt des Komponisten Felix von Wei...
Deutsch: Porträt des Komponisten Felix von Weingartner. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Weingartner's Third String Quartet dates from 1903 and was a present to his second wife, Feodora. This is important because one can clearly identify a "Feodora" theme. The first two tones of the quartet begin with an F and an E followed by C (the "do" of the scale) then there is D (Re of the scale) followed by an A. The theme can be heard in various guises throughout the work. The opening measures to the first movement, Allegro commodo, clearly evoke the spirit of Beethoven. One hears vague echoes of themes from Op.18 No.2 (The Compliment), Op.74 (The Harp) and from introductions of several of the Late Quartets. Then there is the violence wchich recalls the powerful second movement of Schubert's last quartet. But all of this is presented in a most original and captivating fashion that is in no way imitative. The middle movement, Allegro molto, is an exciting scherzo. We are taking a wild horse ride across an open varied countryside, as the rhythmic power of the music impels us ever forward. Along the way we are treated to some very adventurous, and for the time, daring post romantic era tonalities. Against this, Weingartner juxtaposes a very languid and melancholy trio section. The finale, Poco adagio, Allegro giocoso, begins with a lengthy slow and sad introduction. From this, the allegro slowly pokes its face forth, gradually gaining momentum as it heads to its first triumphant and joyful climax. Again adventurous tonalities are wonderfully mixed with the traditional.

This is a highly individual and original work of the first order from the important transitional era of Romanticism to Modernism.