Weigl: Isle Of The Dead / Joseph Banowetz

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WEIGL 6 Fantasies. Isle of the Dead. Pictures and Tales. Dance of the Furies. Night Fantasies • Joseph Banowetz (pn) • NAXOS 8.572423 (78: 49)

Josef Banowetz’s efforts on behalf of neglected music have not gone unnoticed by the recording industry. Two of his projects—Balakirev’s piano music for four-hands (with Alton Chung Ming Chan) and the Kletzki Piano Concerto (with the Russian Philharmonic of Moscow conducted by Thomas Sanderling)—have received Grammy nominations for outstanding performances. Whether his current disc of the complete piano music of Karl Weigl will be so honored remains to be seen, but connoisseurs of the rare don’t have to wait for the Grammy’s imprimatur to feel secure in acquiring the CD. Banowetz is an excellent pianist whose warm tone and expressive manner are stylistically well matched with Weigl’s Viennese aesthetic. It’s tempting to think that Banowetz’s years in Vienna sensitized him to the evanescent wisps of the turn-of-the-century zeitgeist that still hovered in the air even in the 1950s. Of course, Weigl, although born in 1881, lived until 1949, so he had ample opportunity to embrace new trends such as atonality or 12-tone composition had he been of a mind to. But for whatever reason he chose another path, preferring to extend the harmonic language of Mahler and his contemporaries while remaining true to their artistic ideals. Banowetz hears a dark undercurrent in much of Weigl’s music. Certainly that holds true for the Isle of the Dead, the Night Fantasies, and the Dance of the Furies, although the latter is more restrained, at least in Banowetz’s interpretation, than the title would suggest. However, Weigl has his lighter, even frolicsome moments: Witness several of the Six Fantasies and Pictures and Tales, although even the Pictures, ostensibly intended for children, touch on some disquieting ideas; Sleeping Beauty’s grave, for instance. Banowetz’s thoughtful interpretations emphasize the varied character of the music, and his touch delineates every nuance from delicate clarity to full-bodied resonance. Incidentally, his pedaling beautifully complements his incisive technique, adding luminous or ominous colors as required. This is a welcome release, showcasing the works of a formerly unsung composer who merits the attention of the listening public.

FANFARE: Robert Schulslaper

Product Description:

  • Catalog Number: 8572423

  • UPC: 747313242375

  • Label: Naxos

  • Composer: Karl Weigl

  • Performer: Joseph Banowetz