Gerd Schaller

Carl Goldmark: Rustic Wedding Symphony; Merlin-Prelude

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Karl Goldmark's Symphony No. 1 in E flat major, Op. 26, known as the "Rustic Wedding Symphony," was almost a staple of the symphonic repertory a generation or two ago. It has fallen somewhat out of fashion, but with its Wagnerian idiom lightened by Hungarian folk rhythms it remains a crowd-pleaser. A recording by Leonard Bernstein was a perennially strong seller, but there was definitely room for an updated version with strong digital sonics such as is presented here. The Philharmonie Festiva Orchestra, based in Munich and conducted by Gerd Schaller, is a much soberer group than Bernstein's New York Philharmonic Orchestra, but truth to tell their wind ensemble passages are probably a bit tighter. You can take your choice; the opening "Hochzeitsmarsch" (Wedding March) movement, a set of theme and variations that gives the impression of humorous side action occurring alongside the main procession, unfolds very crisply indeed in this version, but the dance finale definitely has more zip under Bernstein. This recording, on the sonically reliable Profil label, will favor a pair of good speakers more effectively; the engineering team, working in the studios of Bavarian Radio, achieves impressive transparency in Goldmark's wind and brass writing. The murky Prelude from Merlin, an orchestral passage from a little-known Goldmark opera, does not make a very effective finale, but for many listeners this release will fill a hole in a collection of late Romantic orchestral standards.

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