Title Of Album: Wissmer: Symphonies Nos. 2-4
Year Of Release: 2014
Total Time: 72:51 min
Total Size: 364 MB
Symphony No. 2
Conductor: Edmond Appia - Artists: Orchestre De La Suisse Romande
01. I. Allegro (6:46)
02. II. Molto moderato (6:57)
03. III. Allegro (6:58)
Symphony No. 3
Conductor: Jean-Jacques Werner - Artists: Leon Barzin Orchestra
04. I. Allegro (6:51)
05. II. Molto moderato (6:38)
06. III. Scherzo (3:35)
07. IV. Allegro (7:40)
Symphony No. 4
Conductor: Alain Paris - Artists: Hungarian Symphony Orchestra
08. I. Allegro (8:24)
09. II. Adagio (7:38)
10. III. Allegro (4:09)
11. IV. Allegro deciso (7:15)
Laid out in three movements of equal length, Wissmer's Second Symphony abandons modality for a chromatic, or dodecaphonic and even serial, language in a free acceptation situating Wissmer in the wake of those who, like Alban Berg for example, used the system made famous by Schoenberg for expressive ends. He does not hesitate to resort to an accompaniment at the octave or in unison or to develop themes according to traditional counterpoint techniques such as imitation or fugal entries. He plays with melodic motifs stemming from the initial series, not in a dogmatic spirit but in an aesthetic of the play and associations of timbres, once again close to those of Poulenc or Ravel.
The vigorous opening Allegro in 2/2 is built on two themes, each presenting the chromatic total in series stated straight then immediately retrograde, before a free conclusion allowing a melodic inscription in what might be called an ‘effect of D' for the rhythmic first, played by the orchestra in unison, and in an ‘effect of E' for the second, more lilting, stated by the solo oboe. It is inspired by sonata form: an exposition, a development fed with elements and transpositions of the two series - even though the second is derived from the mirror of the first - and a recapitulation.
In the middle movement, Molto moderato (3/4) in ABA form, the strings play an essential role, providing a profoundly expressive framework for the rest of the timbres, worked in soli, doublings and even unisons at the third, recalling Olivier Messiaen's writing of orchestral tutti. Might this be a transparent, thoroughly French response to the sombre foliage of Strauss's Metamorphoses , composed only a few years earlier? Its founding theme is also a twelve-note series, presented according to the same principle as those of the first movement.
We again find the series from the first movement in the final Allegro, superimposing 4/4 and 12/8 and overlapping snatches of the folk-song Trois jeunes tambours s'en revenaient de guerre with brass calls, sniggering of the xylophone, flights of a carillon, and even an almost large fugue. The whole reveals a spirit of manifest derision, but is handled with the orchestral elegance and effectiveness characteristic of Wissmer who clearly places himself here in the tradition of Hector Berlioz, Camille Saint-Saens and Strauss.
Symphony No 3 (1955)
Dedicated to its first interpreter, Paul Klecki, Wissmer's Third Symphony consists of four movements, the sole concession to Neo-classicism with tonal resolutions, for the work prolongs, in a way, the spirit of the second movement of the Second Symphony and freely draws on several sources.
The string orchestra is used in all its sound and expressive possibilities, Wissmer having already composed two quartets (1937, 1949) and a Movement for string orchestra (1937).
The first movement, an Allegro in 4/4, contrasts two distinct characters successively played three times, united, however, by their chromatic colour: on the one hand, an anapaest rhythmic motif followed by a support on the second beat opens a long phrase made up of disjunct intervals, laid out in unison by the violins and violas, and on the other hand, a theme in 2/2, a series of nine notes pivoting around C over a pedal of F, painfully interweaving violins and cellos. The two repeats of this alternation present melodic and timbric plays up to the final cadence in D minor.
Molto moderato in 3/4, the second movement, dolce espressivo, is organised on a dodecaphonic melody freely varied and developed; the sections are divided into up to three parts of tutti or soloists with multiple playing styles (mute, on the fingerboard, pizzicato) and accompaniment effects in tremolos, arpeggios, tenuti harmonics. Their chromatic overlappings converge in an expressive crescendo towards a solo violin cadenza before the return of the initial melody with auxiliary notes and the long conclusion in F major.
The brief Scherzo in 3/8 creates a clear break in tone: even though again based on the chromatic total backed by a long pedal on A, the theme takes on the flavour of a folk-dance, in particular with the omnipresent siciliana. A central interlude, moderato in 2/2, leads the listener towards introspection before a return of the initial Scherzo, ending in A major.
The final Allegro in 4/4 continues this folk spirit through a theme in Aeolian D, etched by the violas and cellos at the octave over a quivering of violins heightened by arpeggios in harmonics. It is commented on and developed in several episodes evolving towards chromaticism before returning to modality via subtle transformations and modulations but preserving the vigorous rhythmic anchoring of the theme, often resorting to the trochee figure. The symphony ends on a ray of D major, a Picardy third of the initial key.
Symphony No 4 (1962)
Maintaining the traditional four-movement form, here Wissmer uses vast forces for the first time, whilst remaining in average proportions, the entire work not lasting more than a half-hour. Ambitious, it confirms brilliant writing for the orchestra, both in the instrumentation and in the orchestration, using new colours and effects, this time turned more clearly towards composers of the East. He completed the orchestration near Genoa during the summer of 1961.
The opening Allegro alternates times of 4, 3 and 2 beats for irregular breadths of phrase of Stravinskian inspiration underscoring the importance of the off-beat and syncopation figures. The founding cantilena is a free presentation of the chromatic total characterised by numerous appoggiaturas; it is then varied and developed, leading to, by way of a fugal central section, a splendid chord of enriched F.
The tripartite slow movement, also constructed on an irregular alternation of times, begins with an Adagio, whose highly expressive theme, consisting primarily of fourths, is a twelve-note series. First truncated to ten notes, then eleven and finally played in its entirety, it is distributed to the combinations of flute/clarinet then oboe and violins/violas, and punctuated by lugubrious chords akin to the sonorities of Bartok's Bluebeard's Castle, which lead to the recapitulation of the series after a contrapuntal development. It is followed by a central Allegretto contrasting, with its dancing nature over an ostinato of quavers going through all the sections. A cluster brings back variants of the series from the Adagio, particularly in the solo violin, before its reprise, like a lament, by the solo cello, flute and celesta in a crumbling of the discourse opening onto the sombre beauty of the final chord in D in appoggiatura.
The third movement Allegro, again irregular, fulfils the promises of the previous Allegretto by offering a witty succession of orchestric episodes: Allegro scherzando, Valse and return of the Allegro scherzando, working the orchestra in alliances, responses and juxtaposition of timbres far removed from any effect of mass, in the spirit of Ravel or Dukas.
This pointillism gives way to a concluding Allegro deciso (4/4), employing all the vigour of the tutti in service to a long march in which snatches of folk themes circulate and whose brassy sonorities, like the ostinato rhythmic pattern, offer an echo to the symphonies of Prokofiev or Shostakovich.