Felix Draeseke: Complete Symphonies

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Let’s get straight to the point: Draeseke was a delightful composer of light and/or comic music. Famous in his lifetime for the excruciatingly serious Christus oratorios, and for his rather anodyne Third Symphony, hopefully nicknamed the “Tragica,” these works, however well made technically, don’t really show him at his best. The First Symphony is an apprentice work of no special character, and the overture to his opera Gudrun is possibly the dullest piece of music ever written, by anyone, for any reason. Trust me on that one. The brief Funeral March also lacks impact and intensity.

No, the real gems here are the Second and Fourth (“Comica”) Symphonies, and the charming Serenade, Op. 49. The Second, although not given a nickname, is also full of humor, particularly in its witty finale (first sound clip), while the Fourth has a brilliantly funny slow movement subtitled “War of the Flies,” in which a very serious melody is constantly interrupted by those irritating pests, and the cymbal player gets to imitate a fly-swatter. If only Draeseke hadn’t been trapped by the oh so dreary late German attitude towards symphonic music (never mind oratorio).

Be that as it may, even the Tragica is an attractive work: it’s just not terribly tragic, and the performances in this set are uniformly fine–better than the competition on MDG, for sure. The engineering is also quite good, save for some way too close miking in the Serenade which captures the solo violinist’s heavy breathing. If you don’t have this set and want to hear some really good (and really bad) late romantic German symphonic music, give this a shot.

-- David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com

Product Description:

  • Release Date: February 26, 2013

  • Catalog Number: 777786-2

  • UPC: 761203778621

  • Label: CPO

  • Number of Discs: 3

  • Composer: Felix Draeseke

  • Conductor: Jörg-Peter Weigle

  • Orchestra/Ensemble: NDR Radiophilharmonie Hannover