Felix Weingartner (1863–1942)

Felix Weingartner, born as Felix von Weingartner, Lord of Münzberg, in Austria, was a multifaceted personality: conductor, composer, piano soloist, music writer, und educator.

Already as a child Weingartner developed an interest in music and in particular for composing. At the age of sixteen he published his first compositions, the Piano Pieces op. 1, op. 2, and op. 3. On the recommendation of Johannes Brahms, he was thereupon awarded an Austrian state scholarship. After receiving his first instruction in music in Graz, the eighteen-year-old Felix Weingartner went to the Leipzig Conservatory to study composition and piano and ended up becoming a pupil of Franz Liszt in Weimar. He maintained a lifelong friendship with Liszt. It was also to Liszt that Weingartner dedicated his first opera, "Sakuntala" op. 8, which Liszt arranged to have premiered in Weimar in 1884. It was purely for financial reasons that Weingartner, on the completion of his studies, decided to assume a post as music director in Königsberg. He himself saw his fulfillment in composing.

It was soon demonstrated, however, that Weingartner also had a great talent for conducting, and the success soon gained by him initially served as an obstacle to further compositional activity on his part. After engagements in Danzig, Hamburg, Frankfurt, and Mannheim, Weingartner, who was then only twenty-eight years old, became the principal music director at the Berlin Court Opera and the conductor of the symphonic concerts of the Royal Chapel then one of the most prestigious conducting posts in Germany. In 1907 Weingartner succeeded Gustav Mahler at the Vienna Court Opera. Already four years later, however, he resigned as director of the court opera and devoted himself entirely to the Vienna Philharmonic, which gained renown throughout the world under his leadership. In 1927 Weingartner accepted the post of director of the Basel Conservatory and of the Concerts of the General Music Society in Basel. He went on to hold this dual post until 1935.

Along with his extensive activity as a conductor, Felix Weingartner continued each day to reserve the early morning hours for composing, which he regarded as his true calling. Just as classical und romantic music formed his focus as a conductor, so too this music influenced und shaped him as a composer. After his ardent veneration of Wagner und Liszt during his youth, he ended up turning to a classical style. Weingartner's compositional oeuvre is extensive und ranges over a broad generic spectrum: seven symphonies, symphonic poems, operas, songs, and chamber music.

(Sonja Striebel, translated by Susan Marie Praeder, in the booklet of the CD "Weingarter, Symphonic Works I", cpo 2004)