Piano Sonatas by MacFadyen and Franck
John Kersey, piano
Audio sample: MacFadyen: Scherzo
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Total time: 70 mins 40 secs Alexander MacFadyen (1879-1936)
1. Concert Etude, op. 26 (6’07”)
Piano Sonata, op. 21
2. Allegro energico (9’56”)
3. Romanza: Adagio con espressione (7’29”)
4. Scherzo: Allegro con brio (3’14”)
5. Finale: Allegro maestoso (9’04”)
Adolph Bergt (1822-62)
6. Introduction and Valse Sentimentale, op. 4 (8’37”)
Eduard Franck (1817-93)
Piano Sonata in F minor, op. 44 no. 1
7. Presto (7’40”)
8. Andante con moto (9’01”)
9. Allegro (9’20”)
We are grateful to Peter Cook and Dr Klaus Tischendorf for supplying copies of scores for use in this recording.
Notes on the music
Alexander MacFadyen was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and studied there under William Borchert and the theorist Julius Klauser. During his three years at the Chicago Musical College he was a pupil of Rudolph Ganz, Arthur Friedheim (who had studied with Liszt), Felix Borowski and others, winning the Marshall Field Diamond medal for graduate school work.
Making his debut with orchestra at the Chicago Auditorium with conductor Hans von Schiller in June 1905, he then concertized as soloist with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra under Frederick Stock and taught at the International Conservatory, New York, and the Wisconsin College of Music, Milwaukee.
MacFadyen’s compositions are mainly small-scale songs and piano works, but this Piano Sonata, a mature work dating from 1921 despite its opus number, is on the grandest of epic scales. It was performed in concert by legendary pianist Josef Hofmann. Stylistically, it shows a strong influence of MacDowell and Grieg, and an ambitious use of episodic form, with the outer movements comprising a set of interconnected sections. MacFadyen’s work must be reckoned among the more imposing of the sonatas of the American late Romantic era and its neglect is puzzling.
Eduard Franck was born in Silesia into a wealthy and cultured family that numbered Mendelssohn and Wagner among its acquaintances. He studied with Mendelssohn as a private student and then began a long career as a concert pianist and teacher. He was regarded as one of the leading pianists of his day and also as an outstanding teacher.
Franck was not forthcoming about his compositions, and failed to publish many of them until late in life. He was a perfectionist and would not release a work until he was absolutely satisfied that it met his standards. Yet what survives is extremely high in quality. Writing of his chamber music, Wilhelm Altmann said, “This excellent composer does not deserve the neglect with which he has been treated. He had a mastery of form and a lively imagination which is clearly reflected in the fine and attractive ideas one finds in his works.”
This Sonata, the first of three that form Franck’s op. 44, is a passionate and finely constructed work that is inventive throughout. The surging, declamatory first movement is succeeded by a slow movement which (perhaps recalling Beethoven’s op. 31 no. 2) features a passage in recitative style. The finale is a busy movement with the opening figuration contrasted with episodes that suggest both Schubertian and Mendelssohnian turns of phrase.
The recording of Adolph Bergt’s Introduction and Valse Sentimentale together with our earlier CD53 completes our survey of that composer’s known piano works, although there are also reports of as-yet lost character pieces that appear not to have survived in the libraries of Europe. This is a piece that, in its way, is absolutely typical of Bergt’s distinctive lyrical and episodic style. Extremely subtle in effect, the same melancholic atmosphere pervades this work as is the case in his longer cycles, suggesting that his approach was fully-formed even at this early point in his compositional development.