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.