Jörg-Peter Weigle / NDR Radio Philharmonic Orchestra

Draeseke: Symphonies 1 & 4; Gudrun Overture

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Mildly original and fairly talented, Felix Draeseke (1835-1913) had only two problems as a composer: he wasn't as original as Wagner or as gifted as Strauss. While Wagner could compose brave new works, Draeseke could compose only modestly innovative works, and while Strauss had the ability to compose pretty much any work he wanted, Draeseke had the ability to compose variations on works that already existed. So while Draeseke's music is more original than, say, Brahms', it lacks the imagination to be memorable, and while Draeseke's music is more talented than, say, Bruckner's, it lacks the inspiration to be unforgettable. The works on this disc -- the First and Fourth symphonies and the Overture to Gudrun -- are testimony to Draeseke's abilities and his deficiencies. Although conductor Jörg-Peter Weigle and the Radio-Philharmonie NDR perform with commitment and dedication, their performance of the serious Symphony No. 1 reveals a work of fine craftsmanship but little melodic or harmonic significance, their performance of the comic Symphony No. 4 reveals a work of good intentions but little humor or wit, and their performance of Draeseke's Gudrun Overture reveals a work essentially indistinguishable from dozens of other late nineteenth century German opera overtures. For listeners already familiar with all the works of Wagner, Strauss, Brahms, Bruckner, Mahler, Bruch, and their contemporaries, Draeseke will be slightly interesting. For everyone else, he will be instantly forgettable. CPO's sound is clean and open, but not especially vivid.

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