Wolf-Ferrari, Schoenberg - J.Strauss II, Bloch

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ErmannoWolf-Ferrari (1876 - 1948)

Sinfonia dacamera in B Flat Major, Op. 8 (Chamber Symphony) (1901)


Johann StraussII (1825 - 1899)

arr. Arnold Schoenberg (1874 - 1951)

KaiserwalzerOp. 437 (1888, arr. 1925)


Ernest Bloch(1880 - 1952)

Four Episodes


Centennials aresymbolic occasions that draw our attention. Their occurrence causes us toscrutinize surrounding events critically, perhaps more in relation to thecalendar, the "thought" of a new century, than to themselves. Thethought of a new century acquires a quite metaphysical dimension, filling uswith both hunger for what the future will bring, and fear of it. Just now, asit happens, we can perhaps identify more closely with some of the feelingspeople had at the time of the last centennial, in a moribund Europe, where it was clear that something new was waiting tobe born. The promise of science and technology was grounds for considerableoptimism that quantitatively and qualitatively, improved circumstances for themajority were in the offing. Some few short years into the new century,however, that optimism was rudely displaced by events of unparalleled brutality,in a confirmation of the direst angst of the new time. The mass-destructivepotentiality of technology thus loosed was a de facto default of humanrationality, and the incomprehensible, four-year long "World War"effectively and brazenly churned to pieces an inconceivable number ofindividuals and reduced the great European empires to fragments. Individualdaily-life became onerous and uncertain at a stroke. Humanity's capacity toorder its own reality, to dam up the loosed insanity, seemed illusory. Its formertoast to the new time as the best "of times", a bad joke. The firsttwo decades of the twentieth century effectively established the political andaesthetic agenda for all those that followed. The generation spawned there wasone that was homeless. Homeless in a painfully concrete sense for millions, andin a metaphoric sense hardly less jarring, for all.


Where to place theartist in such a situation? What orientation when the solid ground of traditionand the home culture crumbles? How to chart out new ways forward? Thesedilemmas are not the artist's only, but concern us that experience music aswell. Of course music can be experienced as a world unto itself- an oasis ofself-sufficiency, a refuge from reality in chaotic times. We obtain, however, aricher and deeper understanding of both music and our own culture when wecontemplate it as historical document, consider its genesis with all stringsattached.


The three works inthis recording might seem unpretentious and entertaining to a fault. Yetprecisely in terms of a broader perspective there is much to be learned fromthem about our own near past, quite apart from their intrinsic integrity asobjects of purely musical discourse. Common to all three composers is the factof their highly cosmopolitan perspectives. More than an abiding curiosity aboutthe surrounding world, these perspectives were those of individuals very muchon the move. Driven by private or political forces to uproot themselves andseek viable situations abroad, their struggle to fix their world and their timeis one we recognize as our own. Thomas Wolfe expressed it directly, andexistentially, in the title of his novel: "You Can't Go Home Again".

Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari (1876-1948): Sinfonia da camera(1901)

Wolf-Ferrari'sbackground and life are illustrative of the cultural complexity of the OldEurope. Beneath the established geopolitical divisions lay tangled webs of farless overt alliances and interests. The extent of ongoing cultural, economicand political exchange between distinct lands and regions was enormous, fargreater than might be imagined. Wolf-Ferrari grew up in Venice. His mother was Italian and his father, a painter byprofession, was from Bavaria. This two-cultural background is reflectedin the name, though it was not until 1895 that Wolf-Ferrari himself fixed hismother's name to the German one. Wolf-Ferrari's native city itself was over thecourse of several hundred years an extremely important internationalcrossroads, the essential hub of economic and cultural exchange between Europe and Asia. Venice in its GoldenAge impinged mightily on world economic conditions. In time, however, thisremarkable city built on water has stagnated. Contemporary trends have littleaffected the city's architecture or core. The wear and tear of the centuries,shoddy upkeep, and a steadily shrinking population have contributed to produce,from the majesty of the former city-state, a living museum, resonant withechoes of its former glory. Wolf-Ferrari's childhood Veniceundoubtedly influenced his mature sensibilities profoundly, and his search foran artistic discourse rooted in an older, rich and heterogeneous culture whoseaccent was traditional.


With his clearaptitude for painting, Wolf-Ferrari appeared destined to follow in his father'sfootsteps as artist. Art studies were pursued first in Rome,and later in Munich. Wolf-Ferrari soon transferred hisattentions to music, however, and returned home to Venicein 1895. The expected musical career did not really take off there, or in Italy generally, and an opera, Cenerentola, receiveda rather poor reception. His reaction was noteworthy; hypersensitive, Wolf-Ferrarivirtually fled Italy and retreated to Munich.

Germany became his new homeland in all particularsthereafter. Despite regular sojourns in his motherland, Wolf-Ferrari never didbecome an "Italian" composer. Some essential thing in the Italian-Venetianopera taste remained elusive. Wolf- Ferrari's appeal was more international,and he enjoyed considerable acclaim both in Germany and abroad. During the course of the First World War Wolf- Ferrarisought sanctuary in neutral Switzerland. Deep sensitivity and a mixed culturalbackground made him particularly impressionable for the war's horrors, and hismusical production was virtually nil. His situation changed in the 1920s, andfrom being a composer in relative isolation, Wolf-Ferrari ended in 1939 asProfessor of Composition at the Mozarteum in Salzburg.


For us today,works for the stage are those with which we most associate Wolf-Ferrari. Interms of his opus these dramatic works are framed by chamber works, writteneither right at the beginning or at the end of his career. The chamber-workscannot be described as innovative; they are in essence extensions of theromantic absolute-music line extending from Mendelssohn and Schumann to Brahms,and while the influence of Wagner may be observed, their genius is notprogrammatic. The internal development of the music generally may be said to belooser and more rhapsodic than that of the composers named. This broadlycharacterizes the Chamber Symphony that was written in Munich in 1901, right after Wolf-Ferrari's abandonment ofhis native city .There is, as suggested by the title, a symphonic breadth tothe temporality of the piece. Considering the relatively small ensemble, themusical gestures are expansive. At the same time, traditional chamber-musical resourcesw
Item number 8223868
Barcode 730099386821
Release date 01/02/2000
Category Romantic
Label Marco Polo
Media type CD
Number of units 1
Composers Wolf-Ferrari, Ermanno
Bloch, Ernest
II, Johann Strauss
Wolf-Ferrari, Ermanno
Bloch, Ernest
II, Johann Strauss
Disc: 1
Four Episodes
1 Allegro moderato
2 Adagio
3 Vivace con spirito
4 Finale
5 Kaiserwalzer, Op. 437
6 Humoresque macabre
7 Obsession
8 Calm
9 Chinese
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