Clara Wieck Schumann
Etienne Nicolas Mehul
Bernhard Heinrich Romberg
John Heinrich Hofmann
Francesco Maria Veracini
Johann Georg Pisendel
Josef Martin Kraus
John Henry Maunder
Adolph von Henselt
19th Century Russian Piano Concerti
From: Phillip Silver (Phillip.Silver@umit.maine.edu)
Ignaz Moscheles, b. Prague 1794, d. Leipzig 1870, was one of the most influential pianist composers of the transitional period between classicism and romanticism. He was born in Prague but left at the age of ten, living most of his life in Vienna (1804-1825), London (1825-1846), and Leipzig (1846-1870). His works were admired and championed by many of the notable figures of the period. Their influence was also felt on several major composers, most notably Chopin and Schumann. Moscheles's Etudes opus 70 were the direct predecessors of the Chopin Etudes, while the opening of Schumann's Piano Concerto is a literal reworking of the development section of Moscheles's 4th Concerto composed in 1823.
Moscheles was one of the first touring virtuosi to champion the works of other composers. His all-Beethoven recitals, and a Historical Series that used harpsichord and piano in the same program, were precedent setters. When his performing career ended circa 1840, he devoted himself to composition and teaching. Among his students were Felix Mendelssohn, Sigismund Thalberg, Edvard Grieg and Arthur Sullivan. The last 24 years of his life were spent as principal professor of piano at the Leipzig Conservatory.
Moscheles composed a substantial body of music, primarily for
his own instrument, the piano. While many of his works reflect the economic
necessity of easy accessibility, such works as the third and seventh piano
concertos, Sonate Melancolique, Etudes Opus 70 and the Piano Trio are fine,
well constructed works, and show that this composer was capable of profound
musical statements. His total neglect is undeserved.
From: CHAWKIN1 (CHAWKIN1@ithaca.edu)
Clara Wieck Schumann was born September 13, 1819 in Leipzig, Germany. Her father, Friederich was a piano seller and maintainer who looked at (worked on?) Beethoven's ruined Boadwood piano. Her mother, Marianne Tromlitz, was a professional soprano and pianist in her own right.
Most of Clara's early compositions were virtuoso pieces for the piano based on popular pieces of the day, such as her variations on Bellini's "The Pirate." Her first mature pieces were written about the time she entered her teen-age years. Her first mature Lied was written when she was thirteen, to the poem, "Waltzer" by Johann Peter Lyser. The first published version of this song was printed in Robert Schumann's Neue Zeitschrift fur Musik in 1834.Robert Schumann was the man who was to eventually become Clara's husband.
Clara continued to compose, mostly for piano, up until about 1880. Her opus numbers only number 23, but she has a good number of pieces published w/o opus numbers. See Nancy Reich's book, "Clara Schumann: The Artist and the Woman" for a complete listing. Two excellent recordings of her work are "Complete Works for Piano" by Partridge released in 1990, and "Lieder and Piano Pieces" by the Musical Heritage Society, released in 1982.
Etienne Nicolas Mehul (1763-1817) was in his day France's most popular composer. His fame came from his operas--he wrote about thirty--but these works, and the rest of his output, is scarcely performed nowadays.
Mehul was born at Givet, Ardennes and showed talent for music early. He studied hard and even wrote three early operas strictly "for practice." A fourth was accepted by the *Opera* in Paris but put on hold. He had early support from Gluck but otherwise had a tough time making a mark in the music world. When the fourth opera was finally performed, in 1790, it met with great success and Mehul became a household name.
Mehul's four symphonies are in some respects anchored in the classical mould (structurally) but are prophetic in that they point to a romanticism in a way early and early-middle Beethoven does. It is unlikely Mehul was imitating Beethoven, and may not have even heard many of the great composer's works, yet they share many innovative characteristics: bold melody and harmonic transitions, wide dynamics, and a sense of the heroic drama. Because of these characteristics, I feel Mehul is underestimated as a symphonist. Robert Schumann and others have pointed to similarities in the first movement of the Beethoven C minor Symphony and the last movement of the Mehul G minor Symphony, both completed in 1808. Yet there's no evidence either composer heard the other's work, and Beethoven had been toying with the germ of the 5th for years anyway. It's unlikely Mehul knew Beethoven was doing this. To these ears, the movement also has a good deal in common (especially in the accompaniment figures) with the Mozart "Great" G minor Symphony.
Mehul was hyper-critical, and revised his symphonies extensively before publication. A pre-Symphony No. 1 was destroyed by the composer. (Parts have survived.) The first movement of an attempted 5th symphony survives as well. It is the opinion of this writer that the last two symphonies are not as fresh and inspired as the first two.
In 1795 Mehul was appointed to the Paris Conservatoire. Seven years later he was admitted to the Legion of Honor. His operas were translated into at least nine different languages. But as he grew older his health began to give way, and he became discouraged and bitter. He died of consumption. As the years went on, Europe became swept away in the music of Berlioz, Liszt and others who stretched the bounds far beyond where Mehul had left them, and his star faded. He is buried in Paris.
Permit me to write a short blurb about Edward MacDowell, the American composer who lived from 1860 to 1908. His most important work is the second piano concerto in D minor; the recording by Van Cliburn is excellent. This concerto owes much to Liszt, but it has some wonderfully original touches, too. The first movement is a fifteen-minute Adagio, which begins with an extended orchestral introduction, and then a cadenza for the soloist. There are alternating sections of furious passion and of gentle lyricism throughout this definitely Wagnerian movement, and it ends quietly. The second movement, Presto giocoso, is a wonderful scherzo-like movement, but with the character of a rag. The final movement begins ominously like the first, but it soon gives way to a grand finish in the major key. I find it to be one of the most gratifying pieces of the late Romantic period.
The Music of Vaclav Nelhybel
Vaclav Nelhybel was born in Polanska, Czechoslovakia in 1919. From 1938 until 1942, he studied composition and conducting at the Prague Conservatory and musicology at the University of Prague. In 1942, he began study of medieval and Renaissance music at the University of Fribourg in Switzerland. He was affiliated with the Swiss National Radio from 1947 to 1950 and became musical director of Radio Free Europe in Munich from 1950-1957. In 1957, he moved to the United States and became an active lecturer and guest conductor. He is perhaps best known for his dramatic and challenging compositions for symphonic band, which were very popular with American ensembles in the 1960's. He is by most accounts considered an American composer. Nelhybel died on Friday March 22, 1996.
II. The Music.
"Propulsion in duration." To generalize, Nelhybel's compositions are characterized by frequent use of linear counterpoint, freely dissonant harmonic textures, panchromatic tonal centers, and forceful, driving rhythms. The works challenge both the performer and listener with flurries of unique ideas spun across measures in elaborate complementary rhythms. The sound is quite unique in twentieth century literature. There are a large number of published pieces for small brass ensembles, and these are probably his best known works. However, this composer best known for band compositions has written fantastic pieces for larger ensembles, orchestras, and choruses. The problem is that not much of it is available on recorded media. Nelhybel's music is complex and exciting; I have found no music more fundamentally stimulating. Nelhybel's music needs to be heard.
III. The Compositions.
ETUDE SYMPHONIQUE. A very mature orchestral work from an early period in his career; published in 1949. From the inaugural three timpani notes, through piano, to pizzicato strings, the principal rhythmic motif is carried across vast sonorities of dissonant strings and fortissimo brass, interwoven with a fast ostinato rhythm introduced by snare drum, and polished with a series of rhythmically linked variants and new ideas. A powerful, firm, and driving work, given a passionate interpretation by Abravanel and the Utah Symphony Orchestra on "Americana: Twentieth Century Works for Orchestra" (Vox Allegretto ACD 8155; 1993).
TRITTICO. Perhaps his best known work, dedicated to William Revelli and the University of Michigan Symphonic Band upon publication in 1964. Scored for winds, percussion, piano, and celesta. The opening Allegro Maestoso is a tightly galloping movement that carries a powerful and determined statement first in the high, then in middle, and finally lower brasses in unison. The intervening Adagio finds mumbling reed instruments getting beaten into the earth by an angry timpani, their respite from grief provided by a strong use of piano and celesta and their rescue by muscular brass choirs. The closing Allegro Maestoso is a stage for heroic brass that finally recapitulates a portion of the Maestoso's statement in a complex ending. My favorite listening exercise is to follow an introductory rhythm in the percussion being recapitulated in the tongues of the trumpet players. Given a highly-polished performance by Fredrick Fennell and the Dallas Winds (Reference Recordings RR-52CD; 1993).
ESTAMPIE NATALIS. Consider the melorhythmic descriptors given the above pieces and apply them to double chorus. Simply fantastic. Accompanied by a troubadour group of piccolo, violin, cello, and percussion, this 1976 piece extends from Nelhybel's Swiss training in medieval music. Take caution if you ever get to hear this piece: The "Alleluia" rhythms will never leave your mind once they've entered. I'm sorry to report that this piece is not currently available commercially; I heard a recording of the University of Michigan Choir performing the piece. I've never been the same since.
IV. The Resource.
Write to John Doucet at email@example.com
Christopher Rouse, professor of composition at the Eastman School of Music, should in my opinion be a household name. He has had works of his performed by almost every major American orchestras and many European ensembles. He won the Pulitzer Prize in 1993 for his Trombone Concerto and has been the recipient of many other major awards. His newly written 2nd Symphony is a work of pure genius. Not only is he a wonderful composer and teacher, he is also a delightful person who is very modest of his incredible achievements.
His first symphony and Phantasmata, a three-movement orchestral work, can be found on the Meet The Composer Orchestra Residency Series, record label Elektra/Nonesuch, with the Baltimore Symphony (David Zinman conducting). Future recordings of his works (Trombone concert and 2nd Symphony) are going to be released within two years. The Aspen Music festival performs a great deal of his music in the summers as do major orchestras during the concert season. If you don't know his music, go to your local record store and buy his CD. You won't be sorry!
I'd like to offer some suggestions if I may. Firstly, it appears to me that Australian Composers would be prime candidates for your list. Fair enough, our music history is quite short, but we have a lot of contemporary composers today who write some good stuff. Like Peter Sculthorpe. Ever heard of him? He's probably our most well-known living composer. Now even though I'm not too crash hot on contemporary art music, I like the man's music. Actually, the Kronos quartet has recorded some of his string quartets. They sound a little like Penderecki in the percussive sections, but the quieter middle parts are really individual and not like much else I've heard before. And can I suggest a work of his that is truly great, and that is his piano concerto. Now I don't think it would be available in the US because the only recording I know of is on an ABC CD, which would only be circulated nationally, I would think. Sorry about that, but bad luck. Percy Grainger would probably be our most famous composer, but I haven't really investigated his gear. Alfred Hill and Miriam Hyde wrote in a Post Romantic style which everybody seems to like, and good on them for it I reckon. Back to unknown composers --- Adolf Wiklund, a Swedish composer (1879-1950) has written the second best piano concerto you'll ever hear. His second in B minor is simply a masterpiece - granted, it owes a lot to Rachmaninoff, my favourite, but it can stand on its own as a supremely excellent piece. It really is good stuff, so check it out if you can. And let the other blokes know as well because I reckon they'd like it too. Another piece that I really like but not many others seem to know about is the 'Malediction' concerto by Liszt. It's for piano and string orchestra, and it's a cracker. I think Steve Schwarz (is that his name?) had it on his list, but I couldn't be certain. Anyway, it's a beauty. Also, have a listen to his posthumous concerto which I have on a Hungaraton CD. It also is a ripper, AND not to forget (which I almost did forget) 'De Profundis', an instrumental psalm for piano and orchestra. It too is an absolute corker.
From: Jeff Gower (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Terje Rypdal (b. 1948) - Norwegian composer/guitarist:
Terje Rypdal was a part of the Norwegian pop scene in the 1960s as a member of the Vanguards, and later with Dream. He worked with the American jazz composer George Russell in the late 1960s and studied composition with the Norwegian composer Finn Mortensen. He became apart of Jan Garbarek's innovative jazz group, recording albums on the then-new ECM label. Later, he released a series of solo/ensemble jazz/rock/classical fusion albums on the ECM label that established him as one of Europe's most unique, innovative and influential guitarists. All the while, he was composing, racking up an impressive opus list that includes five symphonies, various concertos for double bass, horn, piano, electric guitars, violin, along with chamber music, choral music, and several film and TV scores. Many of his works feature his own instrument, the electric guitar, making him one of the very few composers who actually have effectively utilized the unique expressive capabilities of the instrument. Also, many of his compositions call for improvisation from the performers. His "classical" or "serious" work shows influences by the likes of Ligeti, Mahler, Penderecki, and Mortensen. His music is definitely modern in every respect, but it is never inaccessible nor does it omit the essential ingredients of beauty and emotion for the mere sake of modernism. Although much of his work has been performed and broadcast in Norway and other European countries, only a small amount has been recorded commercially. The image for electric guitar, strings, oboe, and clarinet "Whenever I Seem to Be Far Away", Opus 8, is on an 1974 ECM recording of the same title (ECM 1045). His violin concerto "Undisonus", Opus 23, and "Ineo", Opus 29, for chorus, electric guitar and chamber orchestra are on a 1987 ECM release entitled "Undisonus" (ECM 1389). "Q.E.D.", Opus 52, for chamber ensemble and electric guitar, and "Largo", Opus 55, for strings, gran cassa, and electric guitar are both on a 1991 ECM recording entitled "Q.E.D." (ECM 1474).
All of these recordings are available on CD. For more information about this composer, please email Jeff Gower at email@example.com and I'll be glad to answer any questions or give suggestions.
Two Bernhards by John Wion (JohnWion@aol.com)
For the hundred years following the creation of Mozart's beautiful music for flute major composers were not inspired to write major works for our instrument. It would seem that the romantic ethic combined with the larger concert halls of the bourgeouisie moved the small intimate baroque flute to the sidelines. It was not until Bohm's new instrument took hold at the end of the nineteenth century that the flute reclaimed its place.
However, there were composers, highly respected in their lifetimes, who did write for the flute. Their music has been overshadowed by the greater geniuses who were their contemporaries, but this does not mean that their music was without value to us, and certainly not that it was without charm and elegance.
A good example of a composer known to performers today, but largely unperformed a generation ago, is Carl Reinecke (1824 - 1910). He was a second rate composer, in the best sense of the word, who was eclipsed by his contemporary, Brahms (1833 - 1897), but he gave us a most enjoyable concerto and sonata, as well as some chamber music (do listen to Fenwick Smith's gorgeous recording of the latter). Who were the Reineckes of the previous generations, Beethoven's (1770 - 1827) and Mendelssohn's (1809 - 1847) contemporaries?
Three years older than Beethoven was Bernhard Heinrich Romberg (1767 - 18 41), the foremost cellist of his time. He began his career in the orchestra of the Elector at Bonn, Germany, which counted among its members Beethoven, playing viola, and Anton Reicha, playing flute. He later concertized all over Europe performing his own compositions, which included ten concertos, and numerous other solos and chamber music. He renewed his friendship with Beethoven whenever he was in Vienna, and performed the latter's cello sonatas with him. It is unfortunate that Romberg is most remembered for a disgusted reaction attributed to him when he first read through the second movement of Beethoven's first "Rasoumovsky" Quartet, however, as late as 1822, Beethoven wrote to him to praise his "high art". In addition to his cello music he wrote six operas, five symphonies, eleven string quartets, and at least three works for solo flute.
It was while he was Kapellmeister to the Prussian King in Berlin between 1815 and 1819 that his Concerto for Flute and Orchestra in B Minor was published as a set of parts by C. F. Peters with the opus number 30 (also assigned by the same publisher to one of the cello concertos). It was dedicated to the Berlin publisher, Adolph Schlesinger, and was probably written somewhat earlier; a letter of 1819 states that he had designated opus 17 for the flute concerto. The piece is in three movements, of which the first, with its long orchestral tutti, is the most substantial, displaying both brilliant passage work and lyrical sections. The slow movement is a pastorale in G Major where the flute traces endless embroidery over string accompaniment, and the charming rondo offers interludes of great bravura and a dazzling coda. The orchestration calls for oboes, horns, bassoons and timpani in addition to the strings. It was surely the lack of a reduction for piano that kept this fine work from entering the repertory, and it is hoped that my publication of such a version will correct this state.
Romberg's cousin Andreas, born the same year, was a violinist, and led a parallel career which included joint concerts as well as publications. Thus, in 1803, the publisher Hoffmeister offered "Trois Quintetti pour flute, violon, deux altos et violoncelle composes par les freres Andreas et Bernard Romberg - premier oevre de Quintetti". The title page of each flute part gives the composer of the first two as Andreas, and the third, in G Major, as Bernhard. This latter is a substantial four movement work, requiring considerable virtuosity of the flute, violin and cello. The violas are used largely in accompaniment, but the darkness they provide gives a weightiness to the piece (particularly the expressive Andante poco Adagio) that contrasts it to flute quartets of this period.
Romberg's third contribution to our repertoire is in lighter vein - a charming Divertimento with string (quartet) accompaniment. A bright Allegro sets up a Swedish folksong which is varied with considerable virtuosity - as a coda there is an elegant minuet. Published as Opus 27, it was similarly listed by Romberg's biographer, H. Schafer, but as "Divertimento uber ein Schwedisches Volkslied fur Flote und Orchester". Schafer also lists a Divertimento with quartet accompaniment as Opus 40, but not being able to find a copy of this I do not know if it is a different piece. Vester lists Divertissement, Opus 40, for flute, violin, viola and cello in his Flute Repertoire
Catalogue as having been published by Richault. He also lists Divertimento, Opus 27, as a work for flute and piano that was published by Schweers und Hake in Bremen.
Seven years older than Mendelssohn, Bernhard Molique (1802 - 1869) was a violin prodigy and student of Ludwig Spohr. At the age of eighteen he was appointed concertmaster in Munich and at twenty four he became concertmaster in Stuttgart. After a successful solo career he settled in London where he became Professor of Composition at the Royal Academy until his retirement in 1866. His compositions include two masses, a symphony, 6 violin concertos, concertos for a number of other instruments, and chamber music. He had his biggest successes with his A Minor violin concerto, his piano trio, Opus 27, and his oratorio, "Abraham".
While in Munich as a young man he befriended the flutist Theobald Bohm and they did some successful concert tours around Germany. One of Molique's first compositions was a Duo Concertante, Opus 3, for flute and violin for themselves to play. A charming work which draws on themes of Weber, including the final hymn from "Der Freischutz", it demonstrates that Molique must have been a superb player.
He also wrote a concerto for Bohm which was reviewed after a performance in Leipzig in 1824 - "Although the composition performed by Herr Bohm is not a work of genius and shows here and there too much of the influence of Spohr, it is nevertheless an honorable addition to the repertoire of the instrument." The concerto was not published at that time though it is presumed that this is what has been recently edited and recorded by Alain Marion using a manuscript in the Wurttemberg Library in Stuttgart. In 1865 the Norwegian flutist, Oluf Svendsen, played a concerto by Molique with the orchestra of the Philharmonic Society in London. It would seem that this was a reworking of his early concerto, now designated Opus 69. A comparison with the Marion edition shows that the outer movements are obvious reworkings and that the Andante is new. Whatever has now become of the manuscript of the later version, it was obviously the source of several German editions after Molique's death (one of which was used in producing the currently available Southern Music edition). The new Andante has always been a popular solo but the concerto as a whole is rarely heard. The opening Allegro is musically strong, though containing some awkward figurations and extended phrases, and the Rondo is charming and appropriately brilliant.
Of Molique's other works for the flute the most substantial is his Quintet, Opus 35, with violin, 2 violas and cello. Written in 1848 on commission from the English piano maker and amateur flutist, Walter Broadwood, it is quite beautiful. As has been mentioned earlier the use of two violas seems to imply a more serious intent than that of a typical flute quartet, and although the opening Allegro is in D Major the first entry of the flute is in the minor mode. The Scherzo is in D Minor, though the trio is built around an English folksong in the major mode. The elegant Andante is in Bb Major, but the contrasting middle section is again in the minor mode. The bubbling finale returns to the opening D Major. The texture throughout integrates the flute with the three strings, only the second viola taking an accompanying role.
After I became interested in these composers some twenty years ago audience response to my performances encouraged me to record the concertos and quintets. I have now added the smaller pieces mentioned above to create a CD of each composer's music. I hope that these CDs along with this article will stimulate the further investigation of the two Bernhards' contributions to our repertory.
John Heinrich Hofmann (1842-1902) by John Wion (JohnWion@aol.com)
Writing in 1894, in Masters of German Music, J. A. Fuller Maitland devoted a chapter to the "Little Masters"-Herzogenberg, Hofmann, Bruckner and Draeseke. We would re-title that perhaps "One Great Master and 3 Who?," but our tendency to concern ourselves only with the genius and the star narrows the range of our enjoyment of music. Just as we have learned that Bach and Handel were not the only composers writing in the early 18th century so we must realize that the Reineckes and the Rheinbergers, the Hofmanns and the Herzogenbergs were enormously gifted and respected composers of their time.
Heinrich Hofmann was born in Berlin on January 13, 1842, the son of a poor artisan. His life in music started as a result of a beautiful soprano voice, which won him a place in the cathedral choir, and later the opera chorus. When his voice broke he switched his attentions to piano and composition. His first real success as a composer came not with a piano work, however, but with his first composition for orchestra, the Hungarian Suite op.16, which received over 100 performances in 1873. The following year his Frithjof-Symphonie, op.22, received some 70-odd performances in Europe and America and placed Hofmann securely before the public. Success followed on success, with several operas and vocal and instrumental works of all types being written with remarkable facility. With over 100 such compositions, state honors, and decorations, it would seem that Hofmann had created a place for himself in musical history. But even before his death at 60 (July 16, 1902) his reputation had plummeted, and his music has scarcely been played since.
As a sober reaction to Hofmann's popularity with the public, Maitland wrote: "An amazing facility in manufacturing music, complete mastery in expressing what he desires to express, an absence of such originality as might offend the public, and an entire lack of distinction, are the chief characteristics of Hofmann's music, and perhaps among the chief causes of its success with the German people....In his prosperous career it is not probable that he has been visited by qualms as to his ultimate position in the history of music, and he is no doubt to be envied for many reasons." The Viennese critic, Hanslick, wrote more bluntly still, "Heinrich Hofmann is not a gifted composer but a reliable, practical musician, able to present commonplace ideas in a tastefully refined form."
Such criticisms in our time are directed at composers who "sell out" to commercialism, whose facility and expertise keep them hard at work at a craft which supposedly prevents their growth as artists. If Hofmann had lived a little later he would probably have been lured to Hollywood like Korngold and Dukelsky.
A 20th-century view of Hofmann is offered by Thomas Langner writing in The New Grove. He notes Hofmann's "amiable traditionalism," adding that "the natural simplicity and classical clarity of his style are best seen in his poetic keyboard works....and his chamber music."
This assessment is certainly borne out by the two chamber works presented on this recording. In both pieces Hofmann demonstrates a wonderful control of form and an admirable ability-rare for his time-to stop just slightly before he has said all he is capable of saying. Harmonically and melodically he looks back to Schumann and Mendelssohn, yet he shows a freedom of modulation that looks forward to Reger.
The Octet, op. 80, is scored for string quartet with flute, clarinet, horn, and bassoon. It is the only piece in the repertoire written for this combination, and it can be assumed to have been a commission. If Hofmann looked backwards for his musical language and inspiration, it is not too surprising that the Octet proposal directed him towards Mendelssohn's work for double string quartet. Quite without shame he opens his work with a motif almost identical to Mendelssohn's. Marked Allegro molto this wonderfully happy theme is stated first by the violin and then by the flute. The tonality moves from F to A-flat for the more romantic second theme played by the clarinet. A third, more martial, theme ends the statement. The development bubbles along into the restatement, and a short but exhilarating coda ends the movement. The rhapsodic second movement, Andante sostenuto, is a nocturne, the mood set by the beautiful horn opening. The fantasy is of silvery moonlight, heavy, perfumed air, and romantic dreams-no nightmares or hobgoblins here! The Gavotte is an absolute charmer - the stuff of encores - and the finale, Allegro vivo, sparkles like champagne with a dash of melodramatic fun thrown in for good measure.
The Serenade, op. 65, was commissioned by the New York Philharmonic Club, an ensemble of German-trained, New York-based musicians, consisting of flute (Eugene Weiner), two violins, viola, cello, and bass. With the addition of guest artists their series at New York's Chickering Hall covered a variety of chamber music repertoire, but there was actually no music written specifically for that combination of instruments (except in so far as the strings represented the nucleus of a string orchestra and could provide the accompaniment for a number of flute concerti). The new work was premiered on March 10, l885 and was reported without comment by the Times critic the next day. One wonders whether he left before the performance - it is hard to imagine that the audience could have been less than charmed by its sunny good nature. Although the piece was later published as being for string orchestra and flute, or for solo sextet, it is not a flute concerto, but true chamber music. The flute is used both in contrast to the strings and as an integral part of the texture.
The first movement, Allegro con moto, is in sonata form, the first theme being introduced immediately by the cello, the second, in the dominant, by the violin. A cadenza for flute starts the development, the thematic material is restated, and a brilliant stretto ends the movement. The second movement, Andante tranquillo, is the most ambitious. The opening material, in A minor, is given to the strings, with rhapsodic interludes for the flute. The warmer second theme, in F major, is a dialogue presented over triplet accompaniment. The brief, impassioned development of this material leads to the recapitulation and quiet close. The Scherzo, Allegro vivace, in G minor, begins with restless energy which is abruptly put aside by the charming trio, in E-flat major, for strings alone. The finale, Allegro vivo, is an uninhibited romp in Hungarian style.
From: Mark Dale (firstname.lastname@example.org)
The Mexican composer, Manuel Ponce (born on the 8th December in Fresnillo, Zacatecas 1882 and died in Mexico City on April 24th 1948) was a prolific composer who produced over 200 works for a variety of conventional and unconventional instrumental groupings. These include, solo piano, solo guitar, piano and orchestra, guitar and orchestra, piano and voice, organ and voice, string quartet and voice, and guitar and harpsichord, to mention a few. His compositions for guitar are his best known works and were virtually all commissioned by the Spanish concert guitarist Andres Segovia.
The collaboration between Segovia and Ponce is the most significant partnership between composer and performer in the history of the guitar. The separation between composer and performer in the solo guitar repertoire is a recent Twentieth Century development. Prior to the Twentieth Century, the solo guitar repertoire comprised arrangements of works for other instruments (namely the lute, vihuela, harpsichord etc.) and a scant body of original works from guitarist - composers such as Fernando Sor, Mauro Giuliani, Dionisio Aguado and Nicolo Paganini. In the Nineteenth Century, the guitar did not enjoy the same favouritism that composers such as J. S. Bach and Diedrich Buxtehude for example, showed toward the lute.
The emergence of guitar music written by non - guitarist composers was due mainly to the solicitations and reputation of the concert guitarist Andres Segovia. During the early Twentieth century Segovia built around him a large network of composers such as Turina, Torroba, Castelnuovo - Tedesco and Villa - Lobos drawn from outside the guitar fraternity who provided him with original works. The most prolific of these composers was Manuel M. Ponce. Ponce's contribution the the guitar oeuvre spanned over twenty -five years and included over thirty individual works for the guitar ranging from a concerto, a sonata for harpsichord and guitar, 5 large - scale sonatas and a monumental theme and variations work, the Variations on "Folia de Espana" and Fugue (1932), two sonatinas and numerous small arrangements and studies.
From: Gordon Rumson (email@example.com)
Arthur Fickenscher was born in
Illinois in 1871. His musical gifts were
recognized early and he received his education in Europe studying with
Josef Rheinberger. Upon his return to the United States he began an active
professional life as pianist, accompanist, composer, conductor and vocal
coach. He married Edith Cruzan, an opera and concert vocalist. In 1920
Fickenscher was appointed head of the Music Department at the University
of Virginia, a post he held until his retirement in 1941.
A composer of many works in a variety of genres, Fickenscher's
was attested to by no less than the great Australian pianist and composer
Percy Grainger. Grainger said of Fickenscher's Quintet for piano and
strings, From the seventh Realm: "The work is unique in its sustained
rapturous mood and is the most spiritual music written at any period for
this combination known to me."
Fickenscher invented a keyboard design and musical instrument
patented) named the Polytone which involved a tuning system with 60 notes
to the octave. The sole instrument built, long stored at the University of
Virginia, is currently being refurbished. Fickenscher wrote an article on
the instrument: "The Polytone and the Potentialities of a Purer Intonation"
in the Musical Quarterly (July 1941).
Fickenscher's musical style is best compared with two other transitional
figures between late Romanticism and twentieth century aesthetics:
Ferruccio Busoni (born 1866) and Charles Martin Loeffler (born 1861). All
three share a similar search for extended means of expression without
throwing away the methods or ideals of the past. A shared mystic
sensibility also links these three composers. Good examples of this are
found in Fickenscher's Quintet and the song cycle Willowwood based on
poems by Rossetti. Grainger heard this latter work for voice, viola, piano
and bassoon, and was enthralled by the melodic beauty and formal fluidity.
Only the Quintet and Willowwood were ever recorded, with Fickenscher
the piano (Quintet: Music Library LP (MLR-5004) and Willowwood: Music
Library LP (MLR 7020), both recordings are now unavailable).
Unfortunately, the sound quality is very poor and the string quartet and
instrumentalists for Willowwood are not up to the task. According to
Fickenscher's student and first biographer, William Jones, this is not a
representative performance at all; indeed he refers to them as
Some of Fickenscher's music was published in his lifetime, such
Communion Service for SATB choir (Schirmer 1945) and the Quintet (Schott
1939). Presently, Sikesdi Press is bringing out editions of other works,
including Willowwood, but a CD recording is desperately needed.
Arthur Fickenscher passed away in 1954. Since that time two of
students, William Jones and Robert Pace, have worked on behalf of his
musical legacy. Both these men deserve the greatest praise for their work
which includes the as yet unpublished book by William W. Jones, Life and
Works of Arthur Fickenscher, American Composer (1871-1954) (1992). Arthur
Fickenscher's papers are held by the University of Virginia library (Web
Some of Fickenscher's most important works are:
Aucalete (1945) Symphonic poem for full orchestra
Day of Judgment (1927) Variations for orchestra
Interlude from "Land East of the Sun" (n.d.) For large orchestra
"Out of the Gay Nineties" (1934) For large orchestra
Willowwood and Wellaway (1925) For orchestra
Aucassin and Nicolete (n.d.) Orchestral-choral symphonic poem
The Chamber Blue (n.d.) Choral-orchestral poem, can be staged
The Land East of the Sun (n.d.) Orchestral-choral symphonic poem
Visions (1912) Symphonic poem for dramatic soprano and large orchestra
Piano Quintet "From the seventh Realm" (Published 1939)
Old Irish Tune (n.d.) For chamber orchestra
"Evolutionary Quartet" (n.d.) For string quartet
Willowwood (n.d.) For mezzo or contralto, viola, bassoon (optional) and piano
Lament (1951) for organ
Improvisational Fantasy (1954) for organ
There are also many works for choir as well as works for voice
and some music composed for the Polytone.
Fickenscher's music deserves to be performed and recorded and
piece "Old Irish Tune" is to be played at the University of Lethbridge,
conducted by Robert George in the near future.
Special thanks to Steve Ellis for information concerning the recordings.
For more information e-mail
One of the most remarkable musicians of the century, Gunnar Johansen
(1906-1991) excelled as a pianist, composer, scholar, educator and
humanist. Born in Copenhagen, he studied in the 1920s with Egon Petri and
became a permanent devotee of the music and aesthetics of Ferruccio Busoni.
>From 1928 or so, Johansen lived in the United States and in 1939 became
the first musical Artist-in-Residence in America.
As a pianist he performed widely and to considerable acclaim,
but his fame
rests upon his complete recording series which he referred to as "Monuments
The Complete Keyboard Works of J.S. Bach
The Piano Works of Ferruccio Busoni
The Keyboard Works of Franz Liszt
The Keyboard Works of Gunnar Johansen
The Twelve Historical Recitals
The Complete Piano Music of Ignaz Friedman
All told there are about 150 recordings here, all produced in
own studio. Available only in LP or cassette format they can only be
obtained by mail order from Artist Direct, Blue Mounds, Wisconsin 53517.
The critical response to the performances has been justifiably high, though
the sonic quality of the engineering leaves something to be desired.
As a composer Johansen was equally prodigious and he created over
compositions. There are three piano concertos, one symphonic piece, 31
piano sonatas, numerous suites, many character pieces, a dozen songs, some
chamber music (including two movements of a string quartet) and 550
Improvised sonatas and 42 "Psalms of David". These last Johansen also
referred to as "Tonal Tapestries" and were improvised directly onto tape.
Some involve electronic elaborations and all show Johansen's spontaneous
creativity and instrumental virtuosity. Some of these are available on the
Johansen cassette series mentioned above. A few more have now been
Gunnar Johansen was also more than merely an artist of the highest
He was also a humanist dedicated to finding solutions to the most pressing
of the world's problems. Johansen organized the Leonardo Academy for the
fruitful integration of the arts and sciences and to combat rampant
overspecialisation. Figures such as Buckminster Fuller and Edward Teller
attended the symposiums that were organized.
Johansen was so remarkable a man that it is almost impossible
to credit his
achievements. His pianism is filled with energy, drive and great
virtuosity. His compositions are original and wide ranging in their
stylistic diversity: the simplest jazz, the tonal cataclysm of the
"Pearl Harbor" Sonata completed December 6, 1941(sic), the harmonic and
psychic energy of the Sonata XXIII"Trilogie der Leidenschaft", and the
mystically efficacious Sonata 108 -- a work that equals the density and
complexity of the music of Sorabji and Nancarrow. Gunnar Johansen remains
a unique voice.
For more information e-mail Gordon Rumson at firstname.lastname@example.org
Gordon Rumson 1995
Franz Schmidt (1874 - 1939) was the last great Austrian romantic composer. Anyone who loves Bruckner and Mahler should respond to his opulent orchestration and the noble elegiac strain found throughout of his works. Though Viennese by adoption, Schmidt was born in what is now Bratislava - a place which has been in three countries (Austria, Hungary and Slovakia) in the past century or so. Schmidt duly inherited the rich musical idioms of all three. I'd recommend 'Variations on a Hussar's Song' (Preiser 93395) as a starter, and the Fourth Symphony (Decca 440 615-2DF2 - 2 CDs, c/w Mahler 2nd) to follow. You should be well hooked by then and ready to sample his apocalyptic oratorio ' The Book of the Seven Seals' (Orfeo, C143862H - 2CDs) and the opera 'Notre Dame' (Capriccio 10248-9 - 2CDs).
The Serious Side of Dimitri Kabalevsky
The Soviet composer Dimitri Kabalevsky has a reputation with the concert-going public as a composer of pedagogic music for children or of music that is considered "light." There is, however, a more serious side to Kabalevsky's output which is embodied in works such as the Cello Sonata, the 2nd Cello Concerto and, above all, in his colossal "Requiem for those who Died in the War against Fascism." I first discovered the Requiem when it appeared as a two-disc set on the Melodiya/Angel label many years ago. As I began to absorb the piece through repeated hearings, it slowly dawned upon me that this was great art, not a pretentious or bombastic piece from a minor composer. This work, a large scale choral-symphonic composition lastly nearly one hour and twenty minutes and utilizing the poetry of the Soviet poet Robert Rhozdestvensky compares favorably with the much better known War Requiem of Benjamin Britten; I hold that the Kabalevsky Requiem is superior to the Britten, a conviction that I know many would view with skepticism, given the great reputation that the Britten Requiem enjoys. The way in which Kabalevsky succeeds in this work is through the great wealth of melodic invention that he lavished upon it; also, the sheer power and drive that so much of the music possesses (in particular the "Tramping of the Divisions" movement) makes the impact of the music almost overwhelming at times. With this Requiem, I believe Kabalevsky rose to the same lofty heights occupied by the very best works of Prokofiev and Shostakovich. I urge anyone interested in unjustly neglected classical music to seek out this piece and devote to it the repeated hearings which it requires to gain a full appreciation of it; I don't think you will be disappointed. Write to Bruce Turlish at email@example.com
Francesco Maria Veracini was born on February 1st, 1690 in Florence, Italy and d died on October 31st 1768 in Florence. This Italian composer and violinist, who was a rising star among the Bar oque musicians, is and individual who deserves our attention. Born into a family of musicians and artists, Francesco received his earl y musical instruction from his uncle ANTONIO VERACINI (who was also a violinist and composer), as well as from o ther instructors. Ironically , Francesco Maria's father was not a musician but an undertaker and a druggist. It seems that Francesco Maria's virtuosity was a prominent trait that was arisin g at such a fast rate that young Giuseppe Tartini was intimidated upon hearing Francesco play the viol in. However, young Tartini did not just flee at the improvisation of Veracini but rather fled to st udy the better use of the bow.
Veracini performed at various concerts, as well as in operas during the intermission period. He was a prominent figure at the Christmas Masses at St. Mark's in Venice. Besides his s acred performances, additional appereances in Venice were definitely to be remembered, perhaps to a political level. For instance Antonio Vivaldi, the city violin teacher, was not invited to Veracini's appearances in Venice. Much of Francesco's performances were seen in London as well, where his playing became popular that Charles Burney reported:'There was no concert now without a solo on the violin b y Veracini'. Interestingly, Veracini played for the opera company which was an active rival o f Handel's, and which produced Veracini's operas.
Even though Veracini was a skillful violinist, at least half of his work s were intended for the voice. Among his four operas are at least nine Oratorios, three pieces for church music , a number of cantatas and songs. Therefore one cannot assume his virtuosity limited potential vocal w orks, which indicates that Veracini was not inexperienced in vocal music.
Veracini served as a church musician during his last years in Florence. From 1755 until his death he served as "Maestro di Capella" for the Vallambrosian fathers in the church of St . Panerazio. Even though he became involved with church music during his latter years, it is belie ved that he was still an active violinist. Perhaps he was still an active composer of vocal as well as o f instrumental music. But only one of his surviving vocal works dates back to 1765. I tend to think t hat Veracini composed more than ONE church cantata during his last years as a church musician. Perhap s the rest of his works didn't survive.
Veracini was a man who followed his own independence. It is believed th at his independent character led him to acquire a bad reputation among some musicians. Did his comtemporarie s see Veracini's independence and rapid success as a threat to their economical stability? Was t his the case with some of Dresden court orchestra musicians, when Veracini was offered a huge salary to join the so famous Dresden Court Orchestra and be earning the same amount of money as Heinichen, Vo lumier and Johann Shmidt's?
It has been said that Veracini was the first, if not one of the first
vi olinists of Europe. Personally I'm not convinced about that. Evidence
suggests that Antonio Vivaldi made his f irst known appearance in public
as a violinist on Christmas eve in 1696 - when Veracini was only six year
s old. At this point Vivaldi was already becoming a rising star as a violinist.
SUBMITTED BY MARIO FONSECA - firstname.lastname@example.org
Johann Georg Pisendel - 1687-1755
This German Baroque musician and composer, who has been ignored, was a remarkabl e individual. Pisendel was one of the leading violinists for the Dresden Court Orchest ra. His devotion to carry on his musical and performance duties is certainly a trait to be admired. Pisendel traveled extensively during his early employment with his royal patron who visited countries such as France, Berlin and Italy. During these tours Pisendel took composition lessons from a number of pr ominent Baroque composers.
It's worth mentioning that Pisendel took lessons and studied with Antoni o Vivaldi during his stay in Venice during 1716-1717. The two musicians developed a profound relationship wh ich went beyond than the typical Teacher-Student acquaintance. Pisendel was allowed to copy several works directly from Vivaldi and even received some original manuscripts as presents directly from the Italia n master. Pisendel did not take advantage of Vivaldi's works but rather made sure that these works were secured with pride in the repertory of the court orchestra. Vivaldi went even as far as composing wor ks dedicated to Pisendel.
But Vivaldi was not the only composer with whom Pisendel came into close contact. J.S. Bach, Telemann and Albinoni also dedicated works to Pisendel as well, at the same time these co mposers admired Pisendel for his success as an orchestral director. It was said that the precision with which Pisendel worked was remarkable. Before a new musical piece was to be performed, Pisendel would go through every orchestral part adding detailed expression marks.
Perhaps because of Pisendel's duties, time for composing was not at the top of his list. Although he did compose music, the little music he did compose is considered to be of the hi ghest quality. It's believed that he composed much more works than what had survived.
It seems to me, therefore, that Pisendel was a man who possessed tremend ous characteristics as a musician and as a human being. His commitment and dedication to his orchestral duties were definitely something to take note of. Consequently, prominent Baroque composers such as Vi valdi, Bach and Telemann had solid reasons to admire and to enter into close relationship with this outst anding German Baroque composer.
SUBMITTED BY MARIO FONSECA - email@example.com
From: Elaine S. Fine (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Augusta Holmes (1847-1903) was born in Paris and grew up in Versailles. Her Irish father, Dalkieth Holmes, was a retired army captain, and her English mother, also named Augusta, was a painter, poet, and horsewoman. Her Godfather, Alfred de Vigny, played a great role in Augusta Holmes's education (and some contend that due to a physical resemblance between him and Holmes that he was her natural father).
Holmes studied harmony and counterpoint with Henri Lambert, the organist of the Versailles Cathedral, orchestration with Hyecinth Klose, the Director of the Regimental Band at Versailles, and voice with Guillot de Sainbris. Later, around 1875, Holmes studied with Cesar Franck.
Musical life at Versailles was centered around a military band, and Holmes was surrounded by wind players. Her orchestration teacher Klose (who also taught clarinet at the Paris Conservatory) encouraged young Augusta to both write for and conduct the regimental band. The advantage of her early training writing for winds gave Holmes's orchestration interesting textures and a fresh voice amid the organ-dominated colors of her contemporaries in France.
By age twelve, when she began writing songs, Augusta Holmes spoke French, English, German, and Italian. With a background in poetry and classics offered to her by her Godfather, she wrote most of her own texts. For some of her earliest songs Holmes used texts by contemporary poets, but for most of her 128 songs she supplied her own texts. She began having her songs published when she was fourteen, three under the pseudonym Hermann Zenta, and four under the name A.Z. Holmes, but the bulk of her music, most of which was published during her lifetime, was published under her own name.
After her father's death and after serving as a nurse in the Franco-Prussian war, Augusta Holmes became a French citizen, and added an accent to the "e" in her name. As her father's only heir, she had a generous income and could live as she wished. She also had an extremely generous nature and supported her lover Catulle Mendes and their four children. (Renoir's portrait "The children of Catulle Mendes" is a portrait of Holmes's children).
In 1994 Marco Polo offered the first recording ever made of Holmes's orchestral music performed by the Reinland-Pfalz Philharmonic conducted by Samuel Friedman and Patrick Davin. It includes her Ouverture pour une Comedie, Andromede, and the extract "La Nuit en Amour" from Ludos pro Patria, and the tone poems Ireland, and Pologne. Holmes's early work shows obvious influences of Bizet, Schumann, and Wagner, but her later work is quite unique and her orchestrating is unusual. Ireland (from 1882) begins with a minute-long unaccompanied clarinet solo. (Debussy's half-minute-long solo flute beginning of the Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun (1892) is the only other example of lengthy unaccompanied solo wind writing in an orchestral context I know.)
Not recorded, and impossible to record is Holmes's 1889 Ode Triomphale, a piece for a chorus of 900 and an orchestra of 300--a virtual symphony of a thousand--that was performed four times during the Paris Exhibition. She offered her services gratis and donated the profits from the one performance that was not open to the public to the victims of flooding in Antwerp.
There is only one complete biography of Holmes in English "The Life and Songs of Augusta Holmes" a 1983 Ph.D. Thesis for the University of Maryland by Nancy Sarah Theeman. In this thesis she reprints some of her songs. Twelve of her songs were reprinted commercially in 1984 by Da Capo Press.
Though Holmes has been ignored by musicologists there is one Musicological article about Holmes in the 1967 Musical Quarterly (vol 53 #3). Rollo Myers judges Holmes's music by heresay, and is quite critical without a real basis for criticism. Thanks to Marco Polo, Da Capo, and Nancy Theeman, we can now begin to judge the music of Augusta Holmes on its own merits.
send email to Elaine S. Fine
Joachim Raff (1822-1882)
1. Biography and position in the history of music
There is perhaps no other composer so admired, enjoyed, honored, and respected, whose music fell victim to such profound neglect and even derision within a short period after his death, than Joseph Joachim Raff (27 May 1822 - 24 June 1882). From 1860 to 1900 the name of Joachim Raff was mentioned in the same breath as Richard Wagner, Franz Liszt, and Johannes Brahms as a leading master in German music. Recognized internationally as one of the truly great composers, every concert guide existing at the turn of the century exalted him to a level of post-Beethovenian symphonic achievement otherwise reserved only for Mendelssohn, Schumann, Brahms , and Tchaikovsky. Tchaikovsky not only openly admired Raff but used him as a model as well, imitating Raff to the point of subconscious quotes, so deep was the influence.
By 1920, after the First World War, even Raff's most celebrated works had faded from the repertoire, his name synonymous with the silly and the sentimental - a periwinkle tunesmith engendering teardrops at tea time in the salon. The derision was often laced with malice - a biographer of Edward McDowell claimed that the noted American composer has "ruined his talent by studying with Raff". Generations of musicians grew up reacting to his name with a smirk or a joke, smugly complacent in their judgments and secure in the self-assurance of ignorance.
It is impossible to single out any one reason for Raff's fall from fame. Born in Lachen, Switzerland, of a family from German Swabia, Raff was basically auto-didactic in his musical education. As a young man he was drawn back to the land of his forebears, by encouragement first from Felix Mendelssohn and later by Franz Liszt. Liszt took him on as amanuensis and musical confidante at Weimar in the early 1850s, establishing Raff's association with the avant-garde of the time, the so-called New German School. From 1855 to 1878 Raff worked independently in Wiesbaden, writing most of his successful compositions. In 1978 he was named the first director of the recently founded Dr. Hoch's Conservatory of Music in Frankfurt-am-Main, where he remained until his death four years later. Although notes for his care and generosity both professionally and personally, he could erupt fits of irascibility, abandoning all tact and restraint, at times literally biting the hand that fed him (Liszt comes immediately to mind). Allied early in his career with Liszt and the New German School, Raff dared to question Wagner's ideas polemically. Unwanted by the conservatives, and himself rejecting the circle with which he was most often associated, he isolated himself between the two most important poles of musical politics during his life. An impeccable craftsman for whom all matters of music were second nature, he could be totally uncritical of the material he used in his compositions, placing movements of soaring inspiration and incredible invention next to ones of embarrassing dross, pairing the simpleminded with the sublime. Yet, despite the harshest criticisms leveled at him, no one can deny that the man was touched by genius and it does not take a sophisticated music lover to respond to the best in Raff's works. What those works are, though, is still a matter of debate. A fair assessment of Raff's compositions has really only recently begun, focusing with good reason on his orchestral music. However, that is only part of Raff's rich lode which also includes an extensive catalog of chamber music.
(abbreviated version of an article written by Dr. Alan Krueck)
2. The music
At a first glance Joachim Raff was a very productive composer. During his creative career he composed more than 200 works to which he assigned opus numbers. Many of these works, however, are smaller piano compositions. Looking at his major works, their number does not exceed the standards of his life time: There are 11 symphonies, 4 concert ouvertures, 4 symphonic poems, 2 violin concertos, 2 cello concertos, 1 piano concerto, 8 string quartetts, 4 piano trios, 2 piano quartets, 1 piano quintet, 1 string sextett, 1 string octet, 6 operas, and 1 oratorio. In any case, it would be misleading to judge a composer just by the number of works he was written. Nobody would seriously place such a judgment on Bach or Mozart ! In an article written after Raff's death Franz Liszt observed that Raff wrote his works in a very individual style. Although today the influence of Mendelssohn comes to mind when hearing a work by Raff, the experienced listener will easily detect the individual character that Liszt wrote about.
Recent CD recordings include the complete series of the 11 symphonies. Some of the symphonies are even available in multiple interpretations. The piano concerto and a few of his piano works have also been recorded. There is also an LP recording of his oratorio 'Weltende, Gericht, Neue Welt'. Unfortunately, there is no recording of his chamber music currently available. A Swiss recording of his piano quintet is already sold out.
Most of Raff's works have been printed during his lifetime. None of these original editions can be purchased today. The Edition Nordstern in Stuttgart, Germany, has recently begun to start publishing a series of Raff's compositions. It will also publish his hitherto unpublished works.
4. International Raff Society
A group of musicologists, musicians, producers and publishers will form the International Raff Society in the near future. It will be located in Germany but there is already an important group of members from the U.S.. All publications of the society will be in German and English. For details write to International Raff Society .
Two recommendations from Mike Willis (MikeW@Gippstafe.vic.edu.au):
I don't know if this Swedish composer anymore rates as an unknown composer, but I am certain that the full range of his compositions is not well known. An elusive and profound composer who is best known for his second symphony (try Jarvi on either of his two recordings, on Bis or DGG) Stenhammar composed more - much more.
His string quartets, which have been recorded on Caprice, are a good start and they are indeed an impressive set. Stenhammar's music is never quick to assert itself, you have to work at it, and his quartets are no different in that regard to his symphonies. But they are deeply felt and glorious music which should be heard more often.
His first symphony, which has also been recorded on Jarvi on a Bis live recording, is a rich, glowing piece which shows a number of influences - Strauss, Mahler and especially Bruckner, but which also creates the chaste and discreet world of the mature Stenhammar. Whereas the second symphony is notable for its brevity, tightness and economy of scale, the first symphony is a larger, longer and more rambling score which nevertheless belongs in more or less the same company as the first symphony. Try the glorious second movement if you want to be convinced: a real masterpiece in my opinion.
Yet his real masterpiece above all is "The Song", a cantata which has been recorded but once, this time by the Swedish company Caprice with the Swedish RSO conducted by Herbert Blomstedt - complete with a very young Anne Sophie von Otter. This 48 or so minute choral piece is a marvelous experience - very pure, almost severe, but with a wonderful second half, and a genuine feeling of nobility - there is almost a hint of Elgar in all of this. But the choral writing reminds one of Handel and Bruckner - and the whole work is redolent of that curious Scandinavian ethos. For those who have been charmed by the Tobias choral piece "The Last Judgetement" (in my opinion an admirable near miss, again conducted by Jarvi, this time in Estonia), try "The Song" by Stenhammar - you will be completely won over. As usual with this composer, his music is never quick to win you over: it takes a bit of time, and the periods of quiet introspection are as important, and as impressive, as the more overtly impressive parts. The orchestral introduction to the second half of "The Song" has been recorded a few times as a stand alone piece; most recently by Okko Kamu on a well recorded and pleasing Naxos disc. The ending of this piece is quite affecting.
Stenhammar's songs have also been recorded by a number of singers, and they are also worth hearing, studying and getting to know. Again, it is a case of "still waters running deep" which is to say behind the sometimes simple harmonic lines is a very serious and masterful composer.
Other bits and pieces of Stenhammar have been recorded on the Bis and other labels, and I nominate him as a real master - in my opinion the equal of many other more popular composers. If you love Elgar, Bruckner or Scandinavian composers, you will like Stenhammar. Like Faure, he is a somewhat reticent composer, but none the worse for that.
I am not sure if all of Stenhammar's music has been recorded, but if you know only his second symphony, do try some of his other pieces: "The Song", the First symphony and some of his songs, at least. With Stenhammar, the ice is never far away, but neither is a rich and deep spirit.
Mention Czech music to people and they will discuss Dvorak, Smetana, Janacek - and after that they will start to run out of steam. Yet I would like to suggest that Josef Suk, who died in l935, is as good as most of these composers if not all of them. True he did not write an enormous amount of music, but he wrote enough masterpieces to earn his place in the sun.
Let's start with some of his less well known music and end with his absolute masterpiece.
His piano music, which has been recorded on Supraphon amongst other labels, ranges from the sublime to the workaday but it is never less than tuneful and well crafted: rather more so, it should be said, than Dvorak's piano music which so often seems to call out for strings rather than the piano.
His string quartet, piano quartet, piano trio, and piano quintet were composed at various times throughout his life and are all redolent of his charm, depth and character. Suk had an enviable musical gift and he could write the most wonderful tunes: witness his incidental music for Raduz and Mahulena (for orchestra) which seem to combine the character and tunefulness of a Dvorak with the yearning and depth of a Mahler.
"Beneath the Apple Tree" is the name of a choral piece with orchestra which contains some of Suk's best music: it demands to be heard and should be on the shelves of every lover of Czech music. There was a good recording of the piece on Supraphon by the Ostrava based Janacek Philharmonic orchestra: I have not seen it for some time. But do try to hear this piece, with its wonderful harmonies and depth. Moreover, there is more to this piece than is revealed on the first few hearings.
The serenade for strings is well known, but often skimmed over in performance. Again, Suk's music carries a powerful charge and depth of feeling which can be ignored in uncaring performances: try the version by Talich and the Czech PO (c. l951) on Supraphon to hear how this music should go - and marvel at the energy of the outer movements and the extraordinary depth of the slow movement, especially the last couple of minutes. In my book this outstrips Dvorak's string serenade and inhabits a powerful world all of its own. Do try it - but avoid some of the glossier and "smarter" versions.
The Variations for string orchestra on a theme of St Wenceslas has been recorded quite a few times - noticeably by Alois Kilma (c. l962/3) and the Czech PO but it does seem to have fallen out of favour. A shame, because it is the equal of the Barber Adagio for Strings in my opinion - but again it must be handled as great music and not as salon tunes. Together with two other pieces this can be heard as a three movement tour de force: the other two pieces, also for orchestra, are "Towards a New Life", and "Legend of the Dead Victors".
The Fantasy for violin and orchestra is slowly becoming better known and so it should be : it is a superb example of bravura and character. It's hard to imagine a better performance than Suk and the Czech PO under Ancerl (c. l962) - better than when violinist Suk recorded the piece again with Neumann. Both are on Supraphon.
The first symphony has only been recorded only once as far as I know, but then very successfully under the baton of Vaclav Neumann - one of his very best performances, again with the CPO, and again with Supraphon in attendance. The symphony - which is quite long - was composed in l897/98 and is simply wonderful: big, powerful and full of good things. Suk's sheer tunefulness comes over time and again in this generous and rich piece.
The Fantastique Scherzo has become quite a show piece for Jiri Belohlavek who has recorded it twice, on Supraphon and Chandos. It's a top notch piece again endowed with Suk's very own character and style. You will not get the tune out of your head for days!
Once we come to the Asrael symphony we come to Suk's undoubted masterpiece: a symphony which can be placed alongside those by Mahler. In truth it is quite a demanding piece - composed later in Suk's career (l905-6) and filled with the bitterness, sadness and sharpness of utterance which can be heard in earlier pieces, but which is far more common in later works - such as "Ripening", another major orchestral piece of his latter years. Asrael takes some time to get to know but is worth it. The death of Dvorak in l904 and Suk's daughter in l905 acted as the well-springs for this remarkable piece which is very much of the twentieth century. Try Kubelik on Panton for a very fine modern version, Belohlavek on Chandos for another excellent version, and Talich on Supraphon for music making which seems to take us to the very heart and core of this tortured and deeply personal music.
Thus, Suk is far more than the composer of just one or two key works: rather he is a composer whose time is still to come. Yet with every year more and more of his works are becoming better known and understood. Do not do yourself the injustice of passing up this master: get to your record store as soon as possible and snap up at least some of his pieces: and enjoy and marvel of one of the lesser known greats of this century. A short list would include: the two symphonies, the variations for string orchestra on St Wenceslas, the Fantasy for violin and orchestra, and the cantata "Under the Apple Tree" - and probably some of the incidental music he wrote. But you will not be able to stop there and will eventually want to collect most of his music. One final piece of advice: do get at least some of Talich's performances, because there are none better. For example, he raises the status of the string serenade to that of great music - and great music making.
For more information e-mail
>From Jeremy Verity (email@example.com)
Havergal Brian is probably the most enigmatic and ill fortuned English composer of the 20th Century. Born in 1876 in Dresden, a pottery town in the English midlands, he was largely self taught. He came from a working class family with a very strong musical tradition, particularly for choral music. By the time he was 15 he was organist of his local church and active in local orchestral life. His first jobs were in woodworking and joinery but involvement with local orchestras and choral societies led to work as a part time music critic for a Manchester newspaper.
He started composing in his late teens with partsong writing that brought him to the attention of Edward Elgar, who encouraged him. His early music is mainly for the human voice, he only turned to purely orchestral writing late in life. In the early 1900 he had performances of his works in London, Birmingham and Manchester and at about this time he was able to take up composing full time thanks to an anonymous benefactor. He moved to London in 1912 but was largely ignored by the public and the concert promoters. In 1914 Sir Thomas Beecham took up his cause and scheduled a performance of one of his large scale works but the concert was the first to be cancelled on the outbreak of World War I. He joined the army and after the war completed his massive Symphony No. 1 the Gothic for choruses, orchestra and brass bands! He continued to write but with no prospect of performance he was forced to earn his living as a copyist and musical journalism until 1944. He was dogged by ill luck including losing the manuscript of one of his symphonies on a train before it had been copied. He re-created it entirely from memory.
In 1948, aged 72, he began the most prolific phase of his life which was to result in 27 symphonies, four operas and many choral works. By this time he had developed a unique personal style, enigmatic, elliptical and highly concentrated. He did not care that his works were not performed provided the manuscripts, all of which he gave to the BBC, were safely archived. This lack of recognition led him to write for himself alone with few, if any, concessions to the listener. Yet his music has a devoted following among those who listen to it with an open mind, particularly among the young.
Brian died in 1972 in his 96th year. By then the revival of interest in his music had brought him much needed performances by amateur and professional orchestras. Thanks to Dr Robert Simpson the BBC mounted performances of all of his symphonies in the 70s and 80s and some were rebroadcast by networks in the USA, Australia and Europe.
In all Brian wrote 32 symphonies, 7 operas, 11 major choral works and over 100 songs. His music follows on in the tradition of Elgar and Strauss; he knew the music of Stravinsky and the Second Viennese School but chose not to be influenced by them. It is well worth exploring. The jury is still out on the overall quality and worth of his work but at least some recordings are now in the shops. Why not listen to some of them and cast your vote?
Symphony No. 18; Violin Concerto. BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, cond. Lionel Friend. (Marco Polo Dig 8.223479)
Symphony No. 1, "The Gothic". Slovak Phil. Chorus & Orchestra; various soloists and choirs; Slovak Folk Ensemble; cond. Ondrej Lenard (Marco Polo Dig 8.223280)
Symphonies 7, 31; The Tinkers Wedding; Comedy Overture. Royal Liverpool SO. cond. Ch. Mackerras (EMI CDM7 64717-2)
Symphonies 10, 21. Leicestershire Schools SO. cond. Loughran and Pinkett. (Unicorn UKCD 2027)
Write to Jeremy Verity at firstname.lastname@example.org
>From John Abbott (email@example.com)
Constant Lambert (1905-1951) wrote only a small number of pieces, but they are all very individual and of very high quality. One of the key figures in 20th century English ballet, Lambert wrote a number of melodic ballet scores, including Pomona in the 1920s and Horoscope in the 1930s. But he also wrote a series of jazz-inspired works, including The Rio Grande, a work for chorus, orchestra and concertante piano. His Sonata for piano and Concerto for Piano and Nine Instruments both explore the darker side of jazz, and are fairly unique in the repertoire. They were both written in the late 1920s. After them, Lambert embarked on his most ambitious work, Summers Last Will and Testament, an hour long piece for chorus and orchestra that uses Elizabethan dance forms and Lambert's own distinct musical voice to portray the themes of death and decay in London in Thomas Nashe's text. His last work, in 1950, was another ballet, Tiresias, which was recently broadcast by the BBC. Lambert also wrote some minatures, including the wonderful Eight Songs of Li Po for chamber ensemble, Trois Pieces Negres Pour le Touche Blanches for piano duet playing only white notes, Aubade Heroique, a short orchestral piece, and a choral setting of "Fear no More the Heat of the Sun". Many of his works, including "Summers Last Will," and the Piano Concerto, have been recorded over the last few years, on labels such as Hyperion and Chandos.
>From A. Kemal Behlulgil (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Josef MartinKraus (1756-1792)
German composer Kraus was born in the town of Miltenberg am Main on June 20, 1756. He was accepted to the Jesuit Grammar School when he was 12 years old. Here he was a choir boy in the court chapel and this brought him in contact with the music of the Palatine Court.
When he started studying philosophy and jurisprudence in 1773, he also found time to study music under J. C. Kittel, one of Bach`s pupils. He decided to be a musician upon moving to Stockholm, capital of Sweden, where King Gustaf III was reigning and joined the circle of other gifted musicians like Naumann, Uttini and Vogeler. He was appointed to the position of Royal Master of the Chapel in 1781.
In 1782, Kraus set off for a long tour in Europe for four years, in order to study the state of music and opera upon the request of Gustaf. He visited several centers of music including Berlin, Dresden, Leipzig, Frankfurt, Mainz and Vienna. He became acquainted with Gluck, Albrechtsberger and Haydn, whom he visited in Esterhazy. Then he set off for Venice, Bologna, Florence and Naples.
He was in even higher esteem when he returned to Sweden, but his happy days did not last very long. Gustaf III was assassinated in April of 1792, and Kraus followed him to the grave on December 15, 1792.
Kraus` style was deeply affected by the works of Gluck and Haydn. In his symphonies (which consisted of three movements generally), he transposed the dramatic style of Gluck into instrumental works. He composed and performed many stage works, including his successful opera "Prosperpin" and "Trauercantate for Gustaf III". He composed a total of eight symphonies, of which the one in C minor deserves a special mention. This symphony was dedicated to Haydn and shows the effect of the master`s Sturm and Drang works on Kraus. Haydn liked the work so much that he conducted the first performance. It can be given among the most important examples of late 18th century symphonic writing. Gluck had said for Kraus: "The man has a grand style!". This was not without reason...
>From Jay Silman (MUSC1800S@aol.com)
Giacomo Meyerbeer (1791-1864) was the dominant figure in operatic Europe during the mid half of the 19th Century. He first began his studies as a pianist and was quite a good one at that, too, until he happened to listen to Hummel. Whereupon Meyerbeer became discouraged and concentrated his efforts in opera.
His first efforts were in German but were not successful. He then went to Italy where he scored moderate successes - no mean feat where Rossini was the reign. His big hit in 1822, Il Crociatto in Eggito, made the international rounds and Meyerbeer was on his way moving his residence to France.
His first effort was Robert le Diable(1831)which broke new ground in opera shying away from coloratura, new timbres for instruments, and the ballet of the dancing nuns! He continued his successes with Les Huegenots(1836), Le Prophete(1849), Dinorah(1854) and his final masterpiece which was left somewhat incomplete at his death, Les Africaines.
Meyerbeer had many more starts and stops than the above operas and in this respect lies the reason why his works have not fared too well after his death. Meyerbeer started a work and would not bring it to the stage unless the music was right, the singers were right, and the scenery was right. It was very difficult to get all these elements together at one time - one must remember that in the mid 1800's the opera was supposed to be a whole evenings' entertainment (about five or six hours) and if audience attention was not held, the performance would go by the boards.
His works are not often performed today because it is very costly to do justice to his works in terms of first class singers and scenery. There have been some gala productions in the modern era: Les Hugenots(Italy, 1962), Le Prophete (Italy, 1971), Robert le Diable(Paris, 1985) to name a few. Competition is stronger today to get an opera produced than it was in Meyerbeer's day. Nevertheless, his name lives on because he did have major influences on Verdi and Moussorgsky - even Wagner! just to name a few composers.
Videocassettes exist of Les Hugenots and Les Africaines and CDs and LPs are available of his major works, too. His orchestral and chamber music is now appearing on the Orpheo label and a forthcoming release on the CPO label.
From Patrick Meadows (email@example.com)
Every year I am afflicted by one obsession or another that sends me looking for musical scores and musical groups to interpret them in my small festival here on Mallorca. The latest madness began during an afternoon lunch in 1994, when Stephanie and I were listening to the strains of Radio Nacional de Espa-a. On the air was the Septet of Franz Berwald, a Swedish composer from the time of Schubert. The forces were the same as in the Beethoven Septet: a trio of wind players and a quartet of strings with string bass, a combination you might call symphonic chamber music. The work turned out to be very solid writing; I began reading about Berwald, and leafing through catalogs. Like the Bach family, there was a great musical tradition in the Berwald clan. His grandfather was married 4 times, and had 25 children, 6 of whom became musicians, including Franz«s father, a violinist, and his uncle, considered the greatest bassoon player of his time. Both Franz and his brother were violinists (they premiered the concerto for two violins by Berwald), and his grandaughter Astrid was an accomplished pianist who studied with Dohnanyi and formed the Berwald Trio in 1935. Franz Berwald was born in Stockholm on July 23, 1796 and died there April 3, 1868. He was, according to the Grove Dictionary of Music, "...the most individual and commanding musical personality Sweden has yet produced." Having no luck in the usual catalogs, I contacted the Swedish Consulate, and they made enquiries leading me to the publisher of his complete works. In Sweden, his talent received little public recognition. Most of the works published in his lifetime were published in Leipzig and Hamburg. Many works were lost, and most of the large works were not published at all. He traveled abroad on a scholarship, eventually was made an Honorary Member of the Mozarteum in Salzburg. Jenny Lind sang some excerpts from his operas in Vienna in 1847. He corresponded with Liszt, and dedicated a Piano Quintet to him. But at home, he was passed over for every important position. Two years before his death he was finally elected to the Royal Swedish Academy of Music, but most of his operas and symphonies were premiered at the beginning of this century, and the publication of his complete works had to wait for the initiative of BSrenreiter in Germany, a long task begun in the seventies, and finished for his 200th anniversary. In the Dei? (Mallorca) Festival of 1996, we heard his Cello Sonata, Violin Sonata, Piano Quartet with oboe, clarinet, horn and bassoon, the Septet, one of the Piano Quintets with strings, a string quartet, and a Piano Trio. If you like Schubert and Mendelssohn, you will enjoy Berwald; and after a few pieces, you will recognize his particular voice, the phrases that no one else of the time would have written. The Gramaphone Classical Catalogue lists a lot of recordings, not only chamber music, my special interest, but also symphonic and operatic works. If you happen to find a recording of his Bassoon Concerto, I«d like to hear about it.
From Patrick Meadows (firstname.lastname@example.org)
John Henry Maunder
With the compliments of Rev. M. Counsell, St Augustine's Vicarage, 8 Hengrave Road, London SE23 3NW, England. Tel. & fax ('phone first) (+44) 181 699 1535, e-mail MJRCounsell@compuserve.com
by Michael Counsell
It's a pity about his surname. The dictionary defines 'to maunder' as to move listlessly, or talk in a dreamy or rambling manner. So it is hard to take the music of Forest Hill composer John Henry Maunder seriously. But a choir in Holland is taking it with full Dutch earnestness and putting on a 'Maunderfest' this October.
The oratorio-choir 'Exultate Deo' of Voorschoten, near The Hague, wrote to me because I am a vicar in Forest Hill, southeast London. They had discovered from Grove's Dictionary of Musicians that Maunder had been an organist at a church in Forest Hill in the last century: did I know which church? The other parish in Forest Hill was waiting for their first female vicar to arrive, so I could find no information from them, but eventually a telephone call to the librarian at the Royal College of Organists produced the answer. Maunder was organist at St Paul's, Forest Hill, which no longer exists. It is remembered by some older residents as a huge building in Waldenshaw Road, where an infants' school now stands next to the supermarket car park. It was demolished following bomb- damage in the Second World War. The congregation took over a congregational church in Taymount Rise, but that was closed ten years ago and the parish amalgamated with Christ Church.
John Henry Maunder (1858-1920) was born in Chelsea and studied at the Royal Academy of Music. The directory of 'Organists in London' produced in the 1890s tells us he was organist at St Matthew's, Sydenham 1876-7, another church which no longer exists, and St Paul's, Forest Hill 1878-9. Grove's also mentions churches in Blackheath and Sutton, and he accompanied concerts in the Albert Hall. He was conductor of the Civil Service Vocal Union from 1881, and also trained the choir for Henry Irving's original production of 'Faust' at the Lyceum Theatre in 1887. His compositions were for a while widely performed and admired, and seem to have gone completely out of fashion now. Not long ago many choirs used to sing Maunder's 'Olivet to Calvary' at Easter in alternate years with Stainer's 'Crucifixion', but it would be hard to find a performance in this country now. Yet it will be heard in Holland this year, along with his 'Bethlehem' and 'Penitence, Pardon and Peace.' He also wrote a cantata for men's voices called 'The Martyrs'. In the 1955 edition of the Oxford Companion to Music Percy Scholes damns him with faint praise, writing that his 'seemingly inexhaustible cantatas, Penitence, Pardon and Peace, and From Olivet to Calvary long enjoyed popularity, and still aid the devotions of undemanding congregations in less sophisticated areas.'
Anybody who has sung these, or any of his other church music, however, will be astonished to discover that he wrote operettas. His 'Daisy Dingle' received its first performance in Forest Hill in 1885, and another operetta was called 'The Superior Sex', which sounds dangerously politically incorrect. Where is the brave operatic society which will unearth these scores and perform them today? He also wrote something called 'Thor's War Song', which beggars the imagination.
I, for one, am grateful to the Dutch choir for their tribute to the memory of a composer largely forgotten in his own country. I'd like to get to the concert. As the librarian at the R.C.O. said to me, musical fashion is fickle, and maybe Maunder will return to popularity.
>From Edgar Gencsi (email@example.com)
Adolph von Henselt was born in Bavaria in 1814. He studied in Weimar with Hummel and had developed an original style of playing to the point where many considered him equal to Liszt. Visiting St. Petersburg in 1838, he immediately was appointed Court Pianist. Robert Schumann praised the 12 Etudes op.12 to the skies. His master-piece is his op.16 - Piano Concerto in F minor. Clara Schumann gave its first preformance in 1844. Of all the great pianists he suffered more than any from stage fright. The thought of playing in public made him physically ill and in the last 33-years of his life it's reckoned that he gave no more than three public recitals.
Of the myriad piano concertos written during the first part of the 19th century, von Henselt's F minor is the one whose neglect is the hardest to explain. The concerto is sort of super-Romantic music with certainly enough interest and musical content ti justify its being played. It might be considered a bridge betweeen Chopin and the later virtuosity of Rachmaninoff and Godowsky. Its not the showy Liszt type of virtuosity, but it demands on the player are even greater and this is perhaps one of the reasons that von Henselt's works have disappeared from the active repertory. Adolf von Henselt died in 1889.
>From Dr. Klaus Zehnder-Tischendorf (firstname.lastname@example.org)
N O R B E R T B U R G M U L L E R* 8. February 1810 in Düsseldorf (Germany)
+ 7. May 1836 in Aachen (Germany)
Norbert Burgmüller was born as the third son of a musical family. His father was the founder of the Lower Rhine Music Festivals (1818), while his mother was a fine pianist and singer. His elder brother Friedrich is still known due to his Piano Etudes. Norbert was educated by his father and from 1826 on by Spohr and Hauptmann at Kassel. In 1830 he returned to Düsseldorf and lived in a circle of musicians, poets and painters. Among them were his friends Mendelssohn, Grabbe, Rethel and Schirmer. He conducted an amateur orchestra, wrote musical critics, appeared as a pianist and gave lessons. Not one of is works was published during his lifetime and only a small number was performed in public. Suffering from epilepsia since his youth, he died in a mineral bath. Mendelssohn wrote his March op.103 for the funeral. Thanks mainly to Robert Schumann, who enthusiastically praised his works, Burgmüllers music did not fall totally in oblivion. Although seldom performed, his music was discussed within musical circles. We know about statements by Johannes Brahms, Clara Schumann and Max Bruch, who highly estimated Burgmüllers gift for composition. From 1838 to 1844 and 1863 to 1865 respectively, the greater part of his legacy was published posthumously in Leipzig. During the first half of the 20th Century, Burgmüller and his music seemed to be forgotten, but since around 1980, his music is receiving more and more interest in public and a Burgmüller-Renaissance seems at last dawning. Actually there is even a project for publishing the scores of his collected works.
Bolzan, C.: Norbert Burgmüller. Treviso 1995.
Eckert, H.: Norbert Burgmüller. Augsburg 1932. (Reprint 1975.)
Jensen, E.F.: Norbert Burgmüller and Robert Schumann. In: The Musical Quarterly, 1990, p. 50-565.
Kopitz, K.: Der Düsseldorfer Komponist Norbert Burgmüller. Kleve 1998.
Tischendorf, K.: Norbert Burgmüller. Leben und Werk. Köln 1980.
Tischendorf, K.: Norbert Burgmüller (1810-1836). Düsseldorf
For further information please contact the author.
Norbert Burgmüller composed between 1825 and 1836 nearly fifty works. His orchestral works comprise two Symphonies (c minor op.2 and D major op.11; the later one partly completed in 1851 by Schumann), a Piano Concerto (f sharp minor op.1), an Overture (f minor op.5) and four Entr'Actes for small orchestra (op.17). Among his chamber music are four String Quartets (d minor op.4 and op.7, A flat major op.9 and a minor op.14), a nowadays widely performed Duo for Clarinet and Piano (E flat major op.15) and a Ständchen (Serenade) for Clarinet, Viola and Gitarre. The piano music is represented by a Sonata (f minor op.8), a Rhapsody (b minor op.13), a Polonaise (F major op.16) and a Waltz (E flat major, WoO). Most of his vocal music is now lost (one song, several shorter pieces for male choir, a cantata, a Psalm and an Opera Fragment "Dionys" ), last but not least nearly two dozens of Songs (mainly published in four volumes opp. 3, 6 10 and 12) have survived. The above mentioned opera numbers are misleading concerning chronology. Burgmüllers early works (1825-1828) show great promise, although they are partly influenced by Beethoven and Spohr. In his mature pieces, which may begin with the Piano Concerto of 1829, Burgmüller reaches quite a free and independent style which sometimes resembles Schubert, of whose works he knew next to nothing. At its best moments, his works foreshadow Schumann and even Brahms. His music combines melodies which long linger in the memory, with an individual harmonic language and original formal solutions.
Orchestral Works / Musikproduktion Dabringhaus & Grimm MDG 335 0817-2
Piano Sonata / Genesis GCD 108
Clarinet Duo / ASV DCA 732
Songs / Muskproduktion Dabringhaus & Grimm MDG L 3244
19th Century Russian Piano Concerti
I found one of those rare books that canboth promise to guide and actually inspire a person to begin an adventureof thought, feeling and insight ... taking him or her to places rarely explored before. The book is The Russian Piano Concerto Volume I: The Nineteenth Century which is authored by Jeremy Norris.
Some of the little known 19th century Russian piano concerti that Norris examines and that would also be attractive to a serious music lover (and well worth several involved sessions of listening) are:
(Suprise! suprise) Rimsky-Korsakov's Piano Concerto in C#
minor, Op. 30. This 13 to 14
minute composition (in four movements) is a beautiful example of the monothematic, melodic
ostinato technique practically invented by the Russian nationalist composers beginning with
Glinka. This melodic ostinato technique is alsoconceptualized as the "changing background
technique" (based on the continuos variation form of composition); Norris defines this tech-
nique as follows, (it consisted of) "surrounding ... the theme(with) ... constantly changing
harmonies (which) illumines it on all sides" (Norris: 86).
This composition technique only can come to life if the theme
itself is powerful and open to
repetitive presentations. On the advice of Balakirev, Rimsky Korsakov selected the popular
and striking military recruitment song, "Sobiraites' -ka,brattsy-rebiatushki" on which to base
his piano concerto. In fact, Balakirev used the same theme for his own Piano Concerto
No. 2 in E flat major. Balakirev's use of variants of "Sobiraites' -ka" throughoutall three
movementsis nowhere as remarkable ashis introduction of the fantastic Russian
Orthodox Requiem chant "So sviatymi upokoi' as the main theme of the concerto's second
movement. I dare anyone to publicly state that the climaxing use of this theme in the
Adagio isn't an extremely moving moment of music. Again, the concerto's second move-
ment is another great example of the 19th Century Russian nationalist's melodic ostinato
technique. Though Balakirev and his fellow "Mighty Handful" (in various degrees), saw Anton
Rubinstein as the main representative of the "cosmopolitan" compositional camp,Balakirev
studied Rubinstein's Piano Concerto No. 2 (and the English composer Litolff for the inspired
second movement) before composing his second concerto.
Rubinstein's Concerto No. 2, however,is not
as rewarding as his minor masterpiece the
Piano Concerto No. 4 in D minor. Its not a nationalist composition, but Rubinstein did
become more nationalistic as is evidencedby his exciting Caprice Russe, Op. 102. In this
composition, he only introduces folk-like melodies (rather than actually quoting Russian
folk music); yet, don't despair, he does seem to apply the very Russian melodic ostinato
technique to his composed melodic materials. Before leaving the area of Russian compo-
sitions for piano and orchestra, an interesting piece to listen to (and a compositioninflu-
enced by Rubinstien's Capriccio) is Arensky's Fantasia on Russian Folksongs or Fantasia
on Themes of I. T. Riabinin, Op. 48. (This composition is based on melodies of the
well known 19 th century starinshchik of bylini, i.e., a reciter of epic tales and legends.)
Last, for a bit of memorable Russian piano concerto entertainment,
you have to give
Sergei Bortkiewicz's Piano Concerto No. 1 in B flat Major, Op. 16 an ear (actually, use both
ears). He was almost a contemporary of his fellow ex-patriot Rachmaninov and gives the
listener a brief glimpse of what Rachmaninov might've sounded like if he let more of classic
Hollywood's film music permeate his nearby dacha. I'm addicted.
Return to the Unknown Composers Page