Felix Weingartner – Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, recreated

My local orchestra has a tradition of playing Beethovern’s 9th Symphony on New Year’s Eve. This gave me the idea of posting Beethoven’s Ninth from 1935 with Felix Weingartner conducting the Vienna Philharmonic. Weingartner is arguably the greatest conductor of the 20th century, and this particular Beethoven’s 9th is arguably Weingarnter’s best recording.

In the past, this recording was reissued on CD by taking various pieces of records and transferring them to CD. My particular version of this performance is from the Grammofono2000 edition. However, I think that the latest remastering on youtube is better, and I will give you the link to that. The company that did the transfer from 78s to digital is called Pristine Classical. They seem to have an impressive catalog.

Recorded in 1935.  Luise Helletsgruber, soprano, Rosette Anday, contralto, Georg Maikl, tenor, Richard Mayr, bass.
Vienna State Opera Choir
Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra

O Freunde, nicht diese Töne!
Sondern laßt uns angenehmere anstimmen,
und freudenvollere.
Freude!
Freude!
Freude, schöner Götterfunken
Tochter aus Elysium,
Wir betreten feuertrunken,
Himmlische, dein Heiligtum!
Deine Zauber binden wieder
Was die Mode streng geteilt;
Alle Menschen werden Brüder,
Wo dein sanfter Flügel weilt.
Wem der große Wurf gelungen,
Eines Freundes Freund zu sein;
Wer ein holdes Weib errungen,
Mische seinen Jubel ein!
Ja, wer auch nur eine Seele
Sein nennt auf dem Erdenrund!
Und wer’s nie gekonnt, der stehle
Weinend sich aus diesem Bund!
Freude trinken alle Wesen
An den Brüsten der Natur;
Alle Guten, alle Bösen
Folgen ihrer Rosenspur.
Küsse gab sie uns und Reben,
Einen Freund, geprüft im Tod;
Wollust ward dem Wurm gegeben,
Und der Cherub steht vor Gott.
Froh, wie seine Sonnen fliegen
Durch des Himmels prächt’gen Plan,
Laufet, Brüder, eure Bahn,
Freudig, wie ein Held zum Siegen.
Seid umschlungen, Millionen!
Diesen Kuß der ganzen Welt!
Brüder, über’m Sternenzelt
Muß ein lieber Vater wohnen.
Ihr stürzt nieder, Millionen?<

Ahnest du den Schöpfer, Welt?
Such’ ihn über’m Sternenzelt!
Über Sternen muß er wohnen.

O friends, no more of these sounds!
Let us sing more cheerful songs,
More songs full of joy!
Joy!
Joy!
Joy, bright spark of divinity,
Daughter of Elysium,
Fire-inspired we tread
Within thy sanctuary.
Thy magic power re-unites
All that custom has divided,
All men become brothers,
Under the sway of thy gentle wings.
Whoever has created
An abiding friendship,
Or has won
A true and loving wife,
All who can call at least one soul theirs,
Join our song of praise;
But those who cannot must creep tearfully
Away from our circle.
All creatures drink of joy
At natures breast.
Just and unjust
Alike taste of her gift;
She gave us kisses and the fruit of the vine,
A tried friend to the end.
Even the worm can feel contentment,
And the cherub stands before God!
Gladly, like the heavenly bodies
Which He sent on their courses
Through the splendor of the firmament;
Thus, brothers, you should run your race,
Like a hero going to victory!
You millions, I embrace you.
This kiss is for all the world!
Brothers, above the starry canopy
There must dwell a loving father.<

Do you fall in worship, you millions?
World, do you know your creator?
Seek Him in the heavens;
Above the stars must he dwell.

Felix Weingartner

Paul Felix Weingartner, Edler (“Lord”, in English) von Münzberg (June 2, 1863 – May 7, 1942) was an Austrian conductor, composer and pianist. Weingartner did much to shape the modern art of conducting. He studied piano and composition in Graz, Austria with the composer W.A. Remy. He received a stipend from the state, and in 1881 he went on to study philosophy at Leipzig University, later attending the Leipzig Conservatory where he made the acquaintance of Liszt. Liszt persuaded him to become a conductor and helped to produce Weingartner’s first opera, Sakuntala, at Weimar in 1884. In the same year he began his conducting career in Königsberg.

Thereafter, Weingartner moved around constantly: Danzig (1885-1887); as Hans von Bülow’s assistant in Hamburg (1887-1889); Mannheim (1889-91); Berlin’s Kaim Royal Opera Orchestra (1891-1898); the Vienna Opera, where he succeeded Mahler (1898-1903); Hamburg again (1912-14); Darmstadt (1914-1919); Vienna Volksoper and the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra (1919-1927). Over the same period, he toured Europe, making his first visits to London in 1898 and to the U.S. in 1905, where he conducted the Boston Opera Company for its 1912-1913 season. From 1927 to 1933, he was director of the Conservatory and Symphony Orchestra in Basel, Switzerland, and returned to the Vienna State Opera from 1935-1936. In his second period with the Vienna Opera he appeared tired, and resigned at the end of the season. In 1939, Weingartner was awarded the Gold Medal of the Royal Philharmonic Society in London.

Weingartner’s activities were not confined to conducting: he was also a prolific composer. His output includes eight operas, six symphonies, two concertos, chamber music and songs, though none of his works had more than a brief success. Together with Charles Malherbe, he edited the complete works of Berlioz and was one of the first to bring that composer’s works back into public favor. Weingartner’s arrangement of Weber’s Invitation to the Dance was recorded four times by him, and he also recorded his own orchestral arrangement of Beethoven’s “Hammerklavier” piano sonata, Op. 106, with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.

Weingartner was among the first great conductors to insist on a meticulous interpretation of the composer’s score and steady, moderate tempi. While in Hamburg, he clashed with Hans von Bülow, whom he criticized for romantic exaggeration and wayward performances. In 1895, Weingartner wrote a book, On Conducting, in which he accused von Bülow of “wanting to divert the attention of the audience from the music to himself.”

Weingartner was the first conductor to make commercial recordings of all nine Beethoven symphonies, and the second (to Leopold Stokowski in Philadelphia) to record all four Brahms symphonies. In 1935 he conducted the world premiere of Georges Bizet’s long-lost Symphony in C. His crisp classical conducting style contrasted with the romantic approach of many of his contemporaries such as Wilhelm Furtwängler, whose conducting is now considered “subjective” on the basis of tempo fluctuations not called for in the printed scores; while Weingartner was more like Arturo Toscanini in insisting on playing as written. His 1935 recording of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9, for instance, sounds much more like Toscanini’s 1936, 1938, 1939 and 1952 renditions (only the last of which was recorded in a studio rather than at a concert) than Furtwängler’s far more expansive readings.