HANS WEISBACH

1885-1961

Almost slipping off the “famous conductor” radar, Hans Weisbach was a Bach and Bruckner specialist at the Leipzig Radio before the war, and based in Wuppertal in his later years, who made it to the USA via an HMV/Victor recording of Haydn’s Oxford with the London Symphony — it graced the catalogs for several years at least: I remember borrowing it from a friend at the age of 12. A mellow stylistic cousin to Franz Schalk, Clemens Krauss, Gunter Wand, the nearly invisible Weisbach knew everything there was to know about gemuetlich musicmaking, notably in an approach to string playing that favored soft attacks and bouncing bow, considerable vibrance, a mellow woodsy warmth. The truth is, all it took was the second bar of Weisbach’s Haydn 92 to convince me he belonged in this book — how is it that when the cellos initiate their arpeggio rise it sounds as if a keyboard had been gently struck? To borrow James Salter’s description of the chateau at Chenonceaux straddling its little river, the music “seems to be drifting in the meadows of a dream.” And the same could be said of much of Weisbach’s ‘39 Verdi Falstaff from Leipzig, so wise and witty, so light and sly, graced by a full plate of relaxed largamente phrasing. They don’t make meadows like that every day.