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Thread: Egon Wellesz

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    Senior Member gregorx's Avatar
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    Default Egon Wellesz

    Egon Wellesz (1885-1974) was an Austrian and later English composer, teacher, and musicologist. Like many in Europe in that era, his life and work were interrupted by WWII. He was exiled from Austria, fleeing to England in 1938 where he lived the rest of his days, composing and teaching at Oxford University.

    In 1905, Wellesz began studies under Arnold Schoenberg where he met and became friends with fellow students Anton Webern and Alban Berg. The three remained close until Wellesz was forced to leave Austria. Before his exile, Wellesz was one of the rising stars in Vienna's music scene. He was mentioned among the most important composers in Austria and his stage music and operas were being performed all over Europe. In 1932 he was awarded an Honorary Degree from Oxford University, the first such degree awarded since Haydn.

    While his studies under Schoenberg led him from tonality to serialism, after leaving Europe his music returned to the Austrian tradition of music including the symphony. His music is classical with a very modern edge to it, much like contemporaries Stravinsky, Hindemith, and Milhaud.

    After the War, the Austrian Government declined to invite Wellesz back to his old position at The University of Vienna. He lived in England, teaching musicology and composition at Oxford. There was some reconciliation with his native country which he visited often. Wellesz was presented with the Vienna Prize (1953), the Great Golden Decoration of the Republic of Austria (1959), the Great State Prize of Austria (1961) and finally with the Austrian Honorary Cross of Science and Arts (1971).

    Wellesz compositions include 9 symphonies, 9 string quartets, 6 operas, a piano concerto, a violin concerto, numerous ballets, chamber works and works for solo piano.

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    Senior Member gregorx's Avatar
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    Wellesz String Quartet No. 3 Op. 25 (1918)


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    Senior Member gregorx's Avatar
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    Wellesz symphonies can be divided into two groups: 1-4 which reflect the Mahler/Bruckner influence, and 5-9 which reflect the influence of the Second Viennese. He often used serial and non-serial procedures in the same movements as well as both tonal and non-tonal structures.

    Wellesz Symphony No. 9 Op 111 (1971)



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    Senior Member SanAntone's Avatar
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    I am happy to see a thread devoted to Egon Wellesz. I agree that his music is very much worth investigating. While there is an excellent complete set of the symphonies on CPO, his string quartets have yet to be recorded completely. Which for me is a sad state of affairs.

    This recording of three of his nine quartets by Artis Quartett Wien is really very good and I can only hope they will will complete the cycle.

    51bS09r7r9L.jpg
    Last edited by SanAntone; May-25-2020 at 00:56.

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    Work for solo piano. W. wrote a lot of good stuff in this genre.

    Idyllen, for piano, Op. 21 (1917)


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    Vision for soprano and orchestra op.99 (1966)


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    Senior Member flamencosketches's Avatar
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    Hmm, I haven't heard any Wellesz. Does anyone know why he is so much less widely known than Berg and Webern?

    Are each of these works posted in the thread as good a place to start as any?

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    Senior Member gregorx's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SanAntone View Post
    I am happy to see a thread devoted to Egon Wellesz. I agree that his music is very much worth investigating. While there is an excellent complete set of the symphonies on CPO, his string quartets have yet to be recorded completely. Which for me is a sad state of affairs.

    This recording of three of his nine quartets by Artis Quartett Wien is really very good and I can only hope they will will complete the cycle.
    Interesting selections, too, as 6 was composed 25 years+ after 3 and 4. I guess some guys are in the repertoire and some aren't.

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    Senior Member Bulldog's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SanAntone View Post
    This recording of three of his nine quartets by Artis Quartett Wien is really very good and I can only hope they will will complete the cycle.

    51bS09r7r9L.jpg
    That would be great, but I'm not optimistic. The above disc was released in 2008, and I snapped it up. Nothing since then.

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    Senior Member gregorx's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by flamencosketches View Post
    Hmm, I haven't heard any Wellesz. Does anyone know why he is so much less widely known than Berg and Webern?

    Are each of these works posted in the thread as good a place to start as any?
    Yeah, depending on what genres you like. His VC is pretty good, his PC not so good (but that could be me, I don't like PC's). His solo piano work is good, his symphonies are good. He also has a lot of shorter orchestral pieces that I like. Very good chamber work also, including a rhapsody for viola solo.

    He's a lot like Berg and Webern in that he has a thin oeuvre, even though he outlived both of them by 30 years. He had a falling out with Schoenberg who didn't like the direction his music was taking after he left Austria. It's hard to say; Webern was the king of the tone rows, Berg was incredibly original, and they both had a big impact on the next generation of composers. Maybe Wellesz, as good as he is, is just viewed as just another neo-classical guy. But he never did abandon atonality and serialism completely and it makes his work very interesting.

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    Senior Member SanAntone's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bulldog View Post
    That would be great, but I'm not optimistic. The above disc was released in 2008, and I snapped it up. Nothing since then.
    It was more a case of wishful thinking, since I was aware that the recording had come out at least ten years ago. Artis Quartett Wien is still together, celebrating their 40th anniversary, but as you say, there appears to be no indication that they plan on revisiting Wellesz.
    Last edited by SanAntone; May-25-2020 at 02:46.

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    Senior Member gregorx's Avatar
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    Sonette der Elizabeth Barrett Browning op.52 (1935), for soprano and orchestra. 1935 is the same year Alban Berg's Lulu was completed.


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