Thursday, 4 October 2012

Ignatz Waghalter (who?)

An hour's violin music by Ignatz Waghalter (1881-1949) does not suggest that here we have a newly discovered great master. The word that constantly comes to mind listening to the (agreeable) pieces on this Naxos CD is: generic. The music is generic German in the line of Brahms, Schumann and Bruch. The playing of the soloist, Irmina Trynkos, is generic modern efficient violin playing. The Royal Philharmonic orchestra sounds like a generic modern London orchestra. The finales of the violin concerto and the sonata for violin & piano underline how difficult it is to come up with really meaningful finales. On the whole, I prefer the violin & piano sonata to the orchestral concerto, which does sound a bit inflated and post-Joachim.

An odd liner note from one Michael Haas of the “International Committee of Suppressed Music at the Jewish Music Institute, London University”. He spends much of his text fulminating against the fact that Wagner didn't care much for Jews – though what that has to do with Ignatz Waghalter, or the price of fish, it is difficult to fathom. We are even informed that Anton Webern was not Jewish – in case anyone was interested. Apparently Mr Haas is a bit of an obsessive.

All praise to Naxos for providing – yet again – a cheap opportunity to explore unknown repertoire from the past. Maybe Waghalter would have benefited from a more subtle violinist such as Janine Jansen or Alina Ibragimova (not to mention Jascha Heifetz). Anyway, it all makes a change from endless Bruch, Mendelssohn and Tchaikovsky.


Morris Herzog said...

It seems that you are overly in love with the word "generic." Composers are "generic." Soloists are "generic." Orchestras are "generic." You write that Waghalter's work is "generic German in the line of Brahms, Schumann and Bruch." If that is really the case, what is the criticism? Clearly, Waghalter composed in an intensely melodic idiom. The question that must be addressed is whether Waghalter, working within this idiom, gave expression to musically significant ideas? What is the quality of his thematic material? What use does he make of it? My own impression is that Waghalter, judging from the work we hear on the new Naxos CD, possessed a quite exceptional musical imagination. Moreover, his thematic material is of the highest caliber. To my ear, he is hardly "generic" anything. His music reflects a broad array of cultural influences. I would also add that Irmina Trynkos' performance is truly exciting, and I hope that we will be hearing more of her work in the near future.

Harry Collier said...

" The question that must be addressed is whether Waghalter, working within this idiom, gave expression to musically significant ideas? What is the quality of his thematic material? What use does he make of it?"

I agree, 100%. But I do not think he has many musically signifcant ideas. I do not find the quality of his thematic material interesting (cf, for example, Shostakovich some 50 year later). There is no passion, no emotion in Weghalter's music (which may, or may not, explain its neglect). During this period of neglected musical works, Weghalter was not alone. And perhaps with good reason.

Morris Herzog said...

Thank you for your thoughtful reply. But to my ear, the Waghalter's concerto is brimming with ideas. The second movement, in particular, is of extraordinary beauty and has great emotional depth. As for the comparison to Shostakovich, his music is the product of an entirely different historical experience. His music comes out of a revolution, the Stalinist terror, the horrors of World War II. But what strikes me about Waghalter's music is its optimism. It seems to suggest that something better than what we have now is possible. And that is a sentiment that seems to have gone missing in so much of contemporary music (though not that of Shostakovich, one of the towering geniuses of music).

David Green said...

"There is no passion, no emotion in Waghalter's music..." Are you joking? Are we listening to the same music? I refer your readers to an excerpt from Waghalter's music (which also contains interesting commentary by the conductor and the soloist):

Harry Collier said...

Looks like old Ignatz has a real fan club going. Good for him. The human ear notoriously works with many different operating systems. There is a list of well-loved composers to whom I am pretty indifferent -- including Haydn, Mahler's symphonies, the orchestral music of Richard Strauss. There is also another -- long -- list of composers with whom I gel: Purcell, Handel, Bach, Schubert, Bruckner, Shostakovich, et al.