Author Topic: Richard Wetz(1875-1935)  (Read 11468 times)

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Offline Dundonnell

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Richard Wetz(1875-1935)
« on: March 30, 2008, 01:45:31 PM »
Having been a bit dismissive of Heinrich von Herzogenberg and Felix Draeseke(although I might just revise my opinion of Draeseke), I thought that I should begin a thread on a German romantic composer for whom I do have a lot of admiration.

Wetz was a difficult man-a little like Pfitzner although not nearly as bad-but a very good composer! His three symphonies, the violin concerto and his Requiem are all quite splendid works in the tradition of Anton Bruckner or Franz Schmidt. Yes they are old-fashioned works to have been written in the first decades of the 20th century but I do find them all highly enjoyable representatives of the late romantic repertoire.

I know that others have commented on Wetz elsewhere but he does perhaps deserve his own separate thread to bring more attention to a name which may well be unfamiliar to many but whose music would equally give great pleasure.

Offline vandermolen

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Re: Richard Wetz(1875-1935)
« Reply #1 on: March 30, 2008, 01:52:48 PM »
I have a CD of Symphony 3 which I enjoyed. It reminds me of Boehme and Bohnke's music.
"Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm" (Churchill).

'The test of a work of art is, in the end, our affection for it, not our ability to explain why it is good' (Stanley Kubrick).

Offline Dundonnell

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Re: Richard Wetz(1875-1935)
« Reply #2 on: March 30, 2008, 02:04:27 PM »
I have a CD of Symphony 3 which I enjoyed. It reminds me of Boehme and Bohnke's music.

Sorry, Jeffrey, do you not mean Ernst 'Boehe'(1880-1938)? He of the huge 'Aus Odysseus's Fahrten' Symphonic Poem which CPO had to spread over two discs.

I don't know any Bohnke but will buy the Symphony/Piano concerto to find out!

You should try the first two Wetz symphonies if you liked the 3rd. Oh and can I also recommend-in the same sort of vein-Paul Buttner's Symphony No.4(Sterling CDS-1048-2).

Offline vandermolen

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Re: Richard Wetz(1875-1935)
« Reply #3 on: March 30, 2008, 02:11:49 PM »
Sorry, Jeffrey, do you not mean Ernst 'Boehe'(1880-1938)? He of the huge 'Aus Odysseus's Fahrten' Symphonic Poem which CPO had to spread over two discs.

I don't know any Bohnke but will buy the Symphony/Piano concerto to find out!

You should try the first two Wetz symphonies if you liked the 3rd. Oh and can I also recommend-in the same sort of vein-Paul Buttner's Symphony No.4(Sterling CDS-1048-2).

Yes, sorry Colin, you are quite right about Boehe. You should enjoy the Bohnke (great name!) I was disappointed to read (I am playing Symphony 3 at the moment) that Wetz was an enthusiast of National Socialist ideology. I know that it should not do so but this information always gets in the way of my appreciation of such composers.
"Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm" (Churchill).

'The test of a work of art is, in the end, our affection for it, not our ability to explain why it is good' (Stanley Kubrick).

Offline Dundonnell

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Re: Richard Wetz(1875-1935)
« Reply #4 on: March 30, 2008, 02:21:18 PM »
Yes, sorry Colin, you are quite right about Boehe. You should enjoy the Bohnke (great name!) I was disappointed to read (I am playing Symphony 3 at the moment) that Wetz was an enthusiast of National Socialist ideology. I know that it should not do so but this information always gets in the way of my appreciation of such composers.

I have just ordered the Bohnke!

Yes, it is true that Wetz joined the Nazi party in May 1933-partly for the opportunistic reason of hoping to further his own career. He was, however, dead by January 1935 so we cannot know whether his enthusiasm might have waned as time went by.

Offline vandermolen

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Re: Richard Wetz(1875-1935)
« Reply #5 on: March 30, 2008, 02:32:35 PM »
I have just ordered the Bohnke!

Yes, it is true that Wetz joined the Nazi party in May 1933-partly for the opportunistic reason of hoping to further his own career. He was, however, dead by January 1935 so we cannot know whether his enthusiasm might have waned as time went by.

Did you order the Sid or Doris Bohnke?  ;D  Seriously,you should enjoy it. Let me now what you think.  Am enjoying the Wetz, very Brucknerian.
"Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm" (Churchill).

'The test of a work of art is, in the end, our affection for it, not our ability to explain why it is good' (Stanley Kubrick).

Offline Dundonnell

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Re: Richard Wetz(1875-1935)
« Reply #6 on: March 30, 2008, 02:38:35 PM »
Did you order the Sid or Doris Bohnke?  ;D  Seriously,you should enjoy it. Let me now what you think.  Am enjoying the Wetz, very Brucknerian.

The Emil Bohnke :) And I shall!

Offline Dundonnell

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Re: Richard Wetz(1875-1935)
« Reply #7 on: April 08, 2008, 02:31:33 PM »
The Emil Bohnke :) And I shall!

What an interesting composer Bohnke is! It is tragic that he died so young(39). It would have been intriguing to see how he would have developed had he lived.

The Piano Concerto at the start seemed to recall early Krenek but then veered off into a rich Romantic Brahmsian lyricism with(I thought) some Russian influences(Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninov). The Symphony is turbulent and grim(just how I like my music!). Its posthumous premiere by so great a conductor as Erich Kleiber shows how highly he at least regarded it.

I have also got hold of a copy of Bohnke's Violin Concerto and will see what I make of that work.

Offline J.Z. Herrenberg

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Re: Richard Wetz(1875-1935)
« Reply #8 on: April 08, 2008, 02:47:50 PM »
I have been listening to Wetz this week - the first two symphonies. Both are excellent in their way, though I prefer the First at the moment - well-structured, stuck in a sort of tragic circle, and compelling in a rather unostentatious way. I do find Wetz a bit 'neutral', his personality is not very distinct (yet). What is distinct is the rather dark atmosphere his music inhabits, although Wetz lightens up a bit in the Second where there is even a harp...

I don't want to sound flippant. I am really looking forward to listening to his Third Symphony. His First is in four movements, his Second in three. The motto theme from the First seems to make a varied reappearance in the Second, so I wonder whether its power extends to number Three too...

Regarding his Nazi ending, I read the German Wiki, and there they said Wetz was a passionate nationalist long before the Nazi seizure of power... So we must come to terms with the fact that we are listening to the music of a man who, politically at least, I couldn't have counted among my friends. The same goes, btw, for Siegmund von Hausegger, a composer whose Natur-Symphonie interests me, but who wasn't very kosher either...

Just to add: it is has been their politics that have stood behind their neglect. Now that the war generation is dying, they are coming back.
« Last Edit: April 08, 2008, 02:51:44 PM by Jezetha »
Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything. -- Plato

Offline Dundonnell

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Re: Richard Wetz(1875-1935)
« Reply #9 on: April 08, 2008, 03:08:53 PM »
I understand the aversion or at least the difficulty many people had/have with composers like Wetz or von Hausegger and, of course, others who have been discussed on this forum before. Their political views may well be anathema to most people. How sincerely they held these views may be debated in individual cases. Sometimes they were more guilty of astonishing naivety. There are other composers who flourished in different totalitarian regimes and yet others whose personal morality or lack of it may appall or disgust some of us. It is a never-ending debate and I must respect the sincerely held views of others.

Going back to Bohnke...having now listened to his Symphony all the way through I am struck by what a remarkable piece it actually is. A very angry work, full of post-Mahlerian angst and passion but really very impressive!

Offline J.Z. Herrenberg

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Re: Richard Wetz(1875-1935)
« Reply #10 on: April 08, 2008, 03:25:15 PM »
Most artists are conformists. Like most human beings they adapt to the status quo, because they want fame, recognition, attention, a position, an income (which means that if the times are rebellious, the artists are rebellious, when the times are pious, so are the artists...). It would be wonderful if artists had as firm a grasp of their art as of the times they live in. But they very often haven't.

I personally admire those artists the most who are masterly in their works and in their lives. But I am always interested in finding a human being in a work of art. That's why I can listen to Wetz.

And now I am off to bed.
Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything. -- Plato

Offline Dundonnell

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Re: Richard Wetz(1875-1935)
« Reply #11 on: April 08, 2008, 03:27:21 PM »
Most artists are conformists. Like most human beings they adapt to the status quo, because they want fame, recognition, attention, a position, an income (which means that if the times are rebellious, the artists are rebellious, when the times are pious, so are the artists...). It would be wonderful if artists had as firm a grasp of their art as of the times they live in. But they very often haven't.

I personally admire those artists the most who are masterly in their works and in their lives. But I am always interested in finding a human being in a work of art. That's why I can listen to Wetz.

And now I am off to bed.

So very true!!

Offline vandermolen

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Re: Richard Wetz(1875-1935)
« Reply #12 on: April 08, 2008, 10:34:06 PM »
Interesting discussion going on here. I know that the politics of the composer should not get in the way of my interest/appreciation of their music but the fact remains that it does although this would not prevent me from\listening to a composer whose views I disliked. I come from a Jewish background so that is my excuse anyway.

Very glad, Colin that you enjoy the Bohnke and, despite the above, I have a high opinion of the Wetz Symphony 3, which I have been listening to.

Karl Amadeus Hatmann is a composer whose political stance during the Third Reich I greatly admire but I have some trouble appreciating his music (apart from Concerto Funebre and Symphony 4)
"Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm" (Churchill).

'The test of a work of art is, in the end, our affection for it, not our ability to explain why it is good' (Stanley Kubrick).

Offline J.Z. Herrenberg

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Re: Richard Wetz(1875-1935)
« Reply #13 on: April 08, 2008, 10:57:44 PM »
Karl Amadeus Hartmann is a composer whose political stance during the Third Reich I greatly admire but I have some trouble appreciating his music (apart from Concerto Funebre and Symphony 4)

You are under no obligation to love the work of a morally sound composer, Jeffrey! (My Hartmann favourites by the way are those works you mention, and the 2nd, 3rd and 6th.)
Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything. -- Plato

Offline vandermolen

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Re: Richard Wetz(1875-1935)
« Reply #14 on: April 08, 2008, 11:19:41 PM »
You are under no obligation to love the work of a morally sound composer, Jeffrey! (My Hartmann favourites by the way are those works you mention, and the 2nd, 3rd and 6th.)

Good morning Johan!

Yes, I'd forgotten about No 6, which I do like. When I heard that Hartmann had banned the German radio (during the period of the Third Reich) from playing any of his music  except his string quartet based on jewish themes, I rushed out and bought a boxed LP set of his symphonies (on Wergo) but I did rather struggle with some of them.
"Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm" (Churchill).

'The test of a work of art is, in the end, our affection for it, not our ability to explain why it is good' (Stanley Kubrick).

Offline J.Z. Herrenberg

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Re: Richard Wetz(1875-1935)
« Reply #15 on: April 08, 2008, 11:22:13 PM »
Good morning Johan!

Yes, I'd forgotten about No 6, which I do like. When I heard that Hartmann had banned the German radio (during the period of the Third Reich) from playing any of his music  except his string quartet based on jewish themes, I rushed out and bought a boxed LP set of his symphonies (on Wergo) but I did rather struggle with some of them.

Rushing Out To Struggle - excellent title.
Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything. -- Plato

Offline vandermolen

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Re: Richard Wetz(1875-1935)
« Reply #16 on: April 08, 2008, 11:24:38 PM »
Rushing Out To Struggle - excellent title.

 :)
"Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm" (Churchill).

'The test of a work of art is, in the end, our affection for it, not our ability to explain why it is good' (Stanley Kubrick).

Offline The new erato

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Re: Richard Wetz(1875-1935)
« Reply #17 on: April 09, 2008, 12:01:30 AM »
(apart from Concerto Funebre and Symphony 4)
Strangely enough - or maybe; not - these are my two favourite Hartmann works as well.

Offline vandermolen

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Re: Richard Wetz(1875-1935)
« Reply #18 on: April 09, 2008, 03:36:38 AM »
Strangely enough - or maybe; not - these are my two favourite Hartmann works as well.

I think that they are both powerful and extremely moving works. The Concerto written at the time of the Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia and quoting Czech-Hussite hymns was another bravely defiant statement from Hartmann.
"Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm" (Churchill).

'The test of a work of art is, in the end, our affection for it, not our ability to explain why it is good' (Stanley Kubrick).

Offline Dundonnell

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Re: Richard Wetz(1875-1935)
« Reply #19 on: April 09, 2008, 05:04:24 AM »
I have to say that I struggle with some later Hartmann as well although I can recognize a composer of very great substance and huge integrity(both musical and personal!). I certainly agree that the Concerto funebre is a most moving work.

Hartmann's stance politically during the 1930s/40s is deserving of the greatest admiration. The attitudes of other German composers were touched on in the thread I started some time ago on German composers of the period. The point behind that thread was to attempt to suggest that we should-at least-explore the music written in Germany by composers who chose to stay and work in their native country. A lot of effort has-quite correctly-gone into reviving music banned by the regime, music written by the victims of the regime(victims including those who fled from Germany and, of course, those who paid the ultimate price!). The task of giving those victim composers the due denied to them between 1933 and 1945 must continue.

I am extremely hesitant to say anything at all which might be taken to suggest that I am trying to defend those other composers who stayed in Germany, continued to compose, perhaps flourished during these years, let alone those who enthusiastically embraced the 'philosophy' and ethos of the regime. There are millions who have excellent personal reasons to detest everything it stood for and all of us-I hope-can recognize how utterly abhorrent it was.

Those composers who worked on in Germany and whose works were performed should not necessarily be simply lumped together however. Their music requires to be considered individually. So too-if we are so inclined-should their personal positions and attitudes.
That is where it becomes more tricky! There were clearly those who disagreed fundamentally with the regime and found themselves in increasing difficulties with it. They had more and more difficulty in having their music performed-even if(some of it) may have been considered musically acceptable. Some were dismissed from teaching posts during the period in question. (I am thinking about someone like Boris Blacher here.) Others adopted the position of the totally apolitical animal, in many cases continuing teaching in music schools and 'got on with it'. Some definitely prospered. I could-but won't-try discussing the stance adopted by composers like Strauss or Pfitzner. There are composers like Carl Orff or Werner Egk-whose personal political views I simply do not know enough about.

(I am aware too of the possible parallels with the Russian composers of the 1930s-early 1950s(and beyond) who had to make accommodations with the Soviet regime and turn out potboiler cantatas praising Stalin and his policies!)

Wetz was,apparently, a strong German nationalist(as, of course, were many, many Germans of the period!). He joined the party and was, apparently, enthusiastic about its aims and policies. He died in early 1935-certainly not before many of these policies were already beginning to be put into hideous implementation but still relatively early in the life of the regime. I could therefore try to construct an argument which would be construed as a plea in his defence. Ultimately, however, that would be pointless.

It is, almost certainly, best left to the individual to make his or her own mind up-whether to condemn these composers out of hand and refuse to listen to their music at all(the obvious case of some people's attitude to Wagner, for example!) or to listen to the music and assess it for its intrinsic merit or lack of it.

My sincere apologies for rambling at such length and ultimately so indecisively! It is such a complex subject that it deserves a lot more than one person's (over-extended) contribution.