Thomas Sanderling: Karl Weigl Apocalyptic Symphony (No.5)

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Karl Weigl Symphony No. 5 "Apocalyptic Symphony" (1945)
Conductor: Thomas Sanderling
Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin

I. Evocation: Moderato - Allegro moderato [0:00]
II. The Dance around the Golden Calf: Allegro moderato [16:11]
III. Paradise Lost: Adagio [23:20]
IV. The Four Horsemen: Allegro moderato [38:55]

The fifth symphony by the prolific Austrian composer Karl Ignaz Weigl (1881-1949). Weigl was a composition student of Robert Fuchs at the Vienna Music Academy and a musicology student of Guido Adler at the University of Vienna, where Anton Webern was among his classmates. After Nazi Germany annexed Austria in the Anschluss of 1938, Weigl fled the country with his family and moved to the United States, where he assumed important teaching positions at the Hartt School of Music, Brooklyn College, Boston Conservatory and Philadelphia Academy of Music.

Leopold Stokowski
 Leopold Stokowski
The Apocalyptic Symphony was composed at the height of the Second World War. Its dedication to the memory of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt is a gesture of solidarity with the United States, as well as an expression of gratitude to the country that had offered the composer safe haven in a dangerous time. Weigl never lived to see the symphony's 1968 premiere at Carnegie Hall by conductor Leopold Stokowski and the American Symphony Orchestra. The work opens with a striking theatrical gesture: The orchestra is instructed to enter the stage at their own leisure and begin tuning their instruments; suddenly, the conductor emerges on stage and cues the three trombonists who are situated on a raised platform behind the orchestra to begin the Evocation. Thus, order emerges from chaos. The second movement, characterized by heavy rhythms, quasi-Jewish themes in the Phrygian mode and echoes of the Dies irae, evokes the Dance around the Golden Calf, a well-known episode in the Book of Exodus where the Israelites begin worshiping a false idol at the foot of Mount Sinai. In this case it is clear that for Weigl, the false idol is the Nazi ideology. The profoundly nostalgic slow third movement is marked "Paradise Lost". The symphony closes with an ominous vision of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse marching inexorably towards destruction. Nevertheless, the climactic coda is marked by the joyful pealing of bells - could it be a hint of good hope of the future?