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The Circle of Brahms, vol. 5
John Kersey, piano
RDR CD93

Audio sample: Rudorff: Capriccio appassionato, op. 48

Price: £18.99. Click the button below to purchase this CD securely online.

Total time: 72 minutes 19 seconds

1. Friedrich Gernsheim (1839-1916): Variations in E flat major, op. 18 (15’59”)
2. Gernsheim: Variations in C minor, op. 22 (13’02”)
3. Gernsheim: Weihe der Nacht, op. 69 (4’04”)
4&5. Gernsheim: Fantasie (6’25”) und Fuge (8’26”), op. 76b
Ernst Rudorff (1840-1916): 3 Romanzen, op 48:
6. Andante con moto tranquillo (4’23”) 7. Allegro capriccioso (3’39”) 8. Larghetto – Allegro vivace (4’28”)
9. Rudorff: Variazioni capricciose, op 55 (6’35”)
10. Rudorff: Capriccio appassionato, op. 49 (5’11”)

Our thanks to Dr Klaus Tischendorf and Peter Cook for supplying scores of these rare works.

Friedrich Gernsheim was born of a Jewish family in Worms and studied there with Louis Liebe, who had been a pupil of Spohr. Following the 1848 revolutions, his father moved the family to Frankfurt, where he studied with Edward Rosenhain. His debut in 1850 was followed by two years of touring, before he undertook advanced studies with Moscheles. Between 1855-60 he was in Paris, where he met Lalo, Rossini and Saint-Saëns. In 1861 he succeeded Hermann Levi as music director in Saarbrücken, and in 1865 Hiller appointed him to the staff of the Cologne Conservatoire, where he taught Engelbert Humperdinck among others. In 1868 he met Brahms for the first time, and his compositions, which include four symphonies (the third based on the Jewish theme of the Song of Miriam), concertos and much chamber music, show a notable Brahmsian influence. He spent the years 1874-90 as director of the Rotterdam Philharmonic Society, before joining the faculty of the Stern Conservatoire in Berlin, finally leaving to teach at the Academy of Arts in 1897, the year he was elected to the senate.

Gernsheim was a talented pianist and composer, and although it is not difficult to see elements of Brahms and Schumann in his work, there is also a personal voice that tends distinctly towards the melancholic. His sets of piano variations on original themes are inventive and ambitious, featuring intricate textural writing and some effective harmonic touches. His Fantasie und Fuge is a transcription of an organ work that begins in the traditional improvisatory style with abrupt contrasts of mood and tempo before building into a noble work that pays homage to the example of Bach. His poetic “Weihe der Nacht” is a transcription of a work originally for piano four hands.

Ernst Rudorff studied piano under Woldemar Bargiel (see previous RDR releases) and in 1859 entered the Leipzig Conservatoire where he studied under Moscheles, Plaidy and Rietz. He undertook further study with Hauptmann and Reinecke. Appointment as professor of piano at the Cologne Conservatoire in 1865 was followed by the senior piano position at the Berlin Hochschule between 1869 and his retirement in 1910. In 1867 he founded the Bach-Verein Köln and from 1880-90 was conductor of the Stern Gesangverein, succeeding Bruch.

A prolific composer, arranger and editor, Rudorff was a friend of both Brahms and Joachim. His original works include three symphonies, overtures, variations and serenades for orchestra, chamber music and vocal music both with orchestra and with piano. He was responsible for orchestrating Schubert’s four-hand Fantasy in F minor.

His compositional style owes something to Brahms but is also relatively forward-looking, at times approaching in its chromatic harmonic style such younger contemporaries as Dohnanyi. His music is characterized by a certain degree of vigour; the extended coda of his Variazioni capricciose being notable for its extroversion. Again, the Three Romances op. 48 might arouse expectations of tranquil works, but the second and third (after a slow introduction) are in fact highly active.

The Circle of Brahms, vol. 4
John Kersey, piano
RDR CD92

Audio sample: Reuss: Andante

Price: £18.99. Click the button below to purchase this CD securely online.

Total time: 70 minutes 35 seconds

Carl Georg Peter Grädener (1812-83): Piano Sonata in C minor, op. 28
1. Allegro molto e con brio (8’15”) 2. Grave assai lento (8’24”) 3. Scherzo finale molto vivace (7’21”)

Heinrich XXIV Prinz Reuss zu Köstritz (1855-1910)
4. Andante (5’01”)

Grädener: Fantastische Studien und Träumereien, op. 52, vol. 1
5. „Immer zu immer zu/Ohne Rast noch Ruh!” (3’52”) 6. Beschaulichkeit (2’58”) 7. Jüngling und Mädchen (3’35”) 8. Kampf, Entsagung, Kampf (4’06”) 9. Resignation (9’21”)

Gustav Nottebohm (1817-82): Six Romanesques, op. 2
10. Andantino (2’41”) 11. Allegro poco agitato (1’08”) 12. Andante cantabile (5’34”) 13. Allegro grazioso (2’00”) 14. Allegro (2’30”) 15. Allegro brioso (3’38”)

Our thanks to Dr Klaus Tischendorf and Peter Cook for supplying scores of these rare works.

Carl Grädener was born in Rostock and spent ten years as a cellist in Helsinki. He was then director of music at the Kiel Conservatoire for ten years, later teaching at the Vienna and Hamburg Conservatoires. His compositions include operas, symphonies and other large-scale works, as well as miniatures for piano and songs. His son Hermann also became a composer. His piano sonata op. 28 is a large-scale and ambitious work that has stylistic parallels with Brahms’ own early essays in the genre. Like Brahms, Grädener’s writing is tightly worked-out and highly pianistic, with a good deal of writing in double octaves and other virtuoso figurations. By contrast, the central slow movement is introverted and, while continuing the overall seriousness of the work, introduces a lyrical element that is otherwise absent. Grädener’s combination of scherzo and finale is an interesting innovation whose stormy character is fully in keeping with the Romanticism of his age without neglect of the essential backbone of Classical form.

Grädener’s first book of Fantastische Studien und Träumereien shows him to have been an effective scene-painter tending particularly towards the intense and dramatic, as in the first and fourth pieces. However, there is contrast here and the second piece, Beschaulichkeit (or Tranquillity) is full of bluff good humour of a slightly boisterous kind. The last of these studies, headed Resignation, is the most extended, with an agitated middle section leading to a long passage of repeated figuration for the left hand.

Martin Gustav Nottebohm is probably best known for his studies of Beethoven’s sketchbooks, but was also well regarded as a composer. After studies in Leipzig, where he met Mendelssohn and Schumann, he settled in Vienna in 1846. His first meeting with Brahms was in 1862 and the two men became close friends, with Brahms caring for Nottebohm in his last illness and making the arrangements for his funeral.

Nottebohm composed on a domestic scale, with most of his works for piano or chamber ensembles. His Variations on a Sarabande of J.S. Bach for piano duet was performed with Brahms as his duo partner. Brahms wrote in a letter to Heinrich von Herzogenberg (see earlier volumes of this series) that Nottebohm was among the modern practitioners of variation form.

Prince Heinrich XXIV Reuss zu Köstritz was born into the younger line of the Princely House of Reuss; his father was an amateur composer. He studied music at Dresden and then entered the Universities of Bonn and Leipzig where he studied with Wilhelm Rust. From 1881 he studied with Herzogenberg and through his good relations with Herzogenberg came to meet Brahms, who offered him some helpful advice on compositional matters.  As well as six symphonies, he wrote a quantity of chamber music, influenced in style by Herzogenberg and Mendelssohn. His works were admired by Reger and other contemporaries, but he fell from favour in the post-war years.

Piano Sonatas of Eduard Franck (1817-93) vol. 3
John Kersey, piano
RDR CD91

Audio sample: Klavierstuck, op. 62 no. 6

Price: £18.99. Click the button below to purchase this CD securely online.

Total time: 71 minutes 31 seconds

8 Klavierstücke, op. 62:

1. Allegretto (8’14”) 2. Allegro molto (3’41”) 3. Andante (4’25”) 4. Presto (2’54”) 5. Allegro appassionato (3’53”) 6. Andante (5’55”) 7. Allegretto (5’03”) 8. Vivace (3’45”)

Piano Sonata in F major, op. 44 no 3:

9. Allegro (10’44”) 10. Allegro (4’24”) 11. Andante – Più tranquillo (12’58”) 12. Allegro vivace (5’26”)

Our thanks to Paul and Andreas Feuchte for supplying scores of these rare works.

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.”

The Eight Piano Pieces op. 62 are among Franck’s last piano works and were first published posthumously in 1910 as a result of the efforts of Franck’s son Richard. They constitute a large-scale cycle varying greatly in mood and tempo, and with a notably more experimental approach than Franck’s earlier works.

The Piano Sonata in F major op 44 no 3 is the longest of Franck’s published piano sonatas, and although published in 1882  was very probably composed earlier than that date. The ‘Neue Zeitschrift für Musik” of 11 May 1883 reviewed the sonatas of op. 40 and op. 44 with the following words, “In all these works, a rich treasure of good German music is laid down. It is said of our time, that it brings forth no thorough Sonata, here we find a refutation of such a claim. Since Beethoven, only a few talented writers such as Ed. Franck have probably been called into existence. Almost all motives are created vividly before us and are well crafted. It is evident how versatile and diverse they are, especially from the fact that there is an underpinning of good counterpoint as if it were naturally present in the hands. Several of these [sonatas] deserve to be performed symphonically, because a dramatic element predominates in them. This Franck has always kept in mind, just as our classical piano masters treated their instruments, in so far as the piano is an orchestra.”

Piano Music of Algernon Ashton (1859-1937)
John Kersey, piano
RDR CD90

Audio sample: Toccata, op. 127 no 4

Price: £18.99. Click the button below to purchase this CD securely online.

Total time: 75 minutes 5 seconds

6 Pieces, op. 140
1. Rêverie (4’25”) 2. Capriccio (4’27”) 3. Scherzo (1’50”) 4. Ballade (5’40”) 5. Impromptu (2’48”) 6. Romance (6’01”)

3 Traumbilder, op. 83
7. Elegie (3’37”) 8. Intermezzo (2’30”) 9. Ballade (2’42”)

5 Piano Pieces, op. 127
10. Elegie (3’02”) 11. Humoreske (2’25”) 12. Romanze (5’38”) 13. Toccata (2’15”) 14. Berceuse (4’14”)

7 Pieces, op. 125
15. Capriccio (2’51”) 16. Idylle (3’41”) 17. Cavatine (3’13”) 18. Intermezzo (3’06”) 19. Silhouette (2’10”) 20. Nocturne (5’16”) 21. Impromptu (2’58”)

Our thanks to Peter Cook for supplying scores of these rare works.

While some aspects of Algernon Ashton’s life have been unearthed in recent years, and important releases on other labels have begun to reevaluate his piano works, much remains enigmatic. Born in Durham, where his father was a lay clerk at the cathedral, his family moved to Leipzig when Algernon was aged four. It was there that he completed his musical education, studying (on the recommendation of Moscheles) during 1875-79 at the Leipzig Conservatoire with Salamon Jadassohn, Carl Reinecke (see previous RDR releases) and Ernst Richter; this was followed by a year in Frankfurt with Raff and Iwan Knorr.

In 1882, his studies complete, Ashton returned to England, settling in London. Three years later, he was appointed professor of piano at the then newly-chartered Royal College of Music, where his pupils included William Yeates Hurlstone and William Alwyn. Here he remained for thirty-five years, retiring aged 60 but continuing to teach pupils privately.

Here the enigma of Ashton begins. Outwardly, his life would appear to have been one of steadfast teaching activity, doubtless enough for many of his contemporaries. But there were two other aspects to his output. One, the musical, consisted of an enormous output of published and unpublished works, many now lost, that came to include twenty-four piano sonatas and string quartets in all the keys, five symphonies, concerti for piano and violin and many piano works in shorter forms and songs. It is these latter that have mostly survived.  The other aspect of his work (which gives a clue to his personality and which brought him some measure of fame before the general public) was as a voluminous writer of letters to the newspapers, on a wide range of subjects from the profound to the trivial. He became known for correcting aspects of biographical information, and particularly matters concerning graves and cemeteries, on which his knowledge was encyclopaedic, and his letters were published in several anthologies.

Ashton seems to have been – rather like his predecessor Alkan, with whom he shares several traits – compulsively creative, even given the relative indifference of English public reception, such that he could only find a publisher in Germany. Music and written material poured from him at white heat, with most of his works dating from his first forty years. One might expect from this a degree of prolixity or trivial statement, but not a bit of it. Ashton is a highly original composer and as for the relatively small number of his works currently available to examine, there is not a dud among them.

Mentioning Alkan brings two notable qualities of Ashton’s music to the fore. One is its extreme technical difficulty. While Ashton is rarely entirely outlandish or exotic in his demands on the pianist, he is uniformly severe, with the writing often cruelly exposed and leaving nowhere to hide any deficiency. If he wrote for his own performance, as seems likely, he must have been a truly astonishing pianist on the level of his more famous contemporaries. The other quality is Ashton’s intense intellectual command of his material. Like Alkan, he is motivically obsessive at times (see the Silhouette from op 125 for a good example of how the same material can be viewed from slightly different angles), but Ashton is far more influenced by the musical language of Brahms and is thus more retrospective than forward-looking for his era. Yet his music is still as English-sounding as it could be, and the blandness of the titles that the shorter pieces bear is deceptive.

This retrospective trait combines with a set of characteristics that we would perhaps cite as a stereotype of Ashton’s northern stock. His music is tough, wiry, emotionally sincere and at times extremely pessimistic, and in its plainness of utterance lacks any hint of the cheapness or sentimentality sometimes associated with his era. This, perhaps, is the key to Ashton’s personality; that he was in essence an idealist and was unconcerned with any form of acclaim save on his own terms. Others such as Rutland Boughton and Harold Truscott have pleaded his case earnestly, noting that while wholly unacknowledged publically, his compositional style was in fact extremely influential. The works on this disc add to his known legacy and further support his claim to distinction.

Piano Music of Hugo Wolf (1860-1903)
John Kersey, piano
RDR CD89

Audio sample: Wolf-Reger Begegnung

Price: £18.99. Click the button below to purchase this CD securely online.

Total time: 56 minutes 50 seconds

Twelve Mörike Lieder, transcribed for solo piano by Max Reger (1873-1916)
1. Jägerlied (1’11”) 2. Er ist’s (1’53”) 3. Begegnung (2’02”) 4. Fussreise (3’48”) 5. Verborgenheit (5’32”) 6. Elfenlied (2’11”) 7. Der Gärtner (1’27”) 8. Schlafendes Jesuskind (4’09”) 9. Gebet (3’00”) 10. Rat einer Alten (2’28”) 11. Gesang Weyla’s (2’12”) 12. Selbstgeständnis (1’34”)

13. Albumblatt (1’39”)
14. Kanon (00’28”)

Piano Sonata in G major, op. 8
15. Allegro gracioso (7’38”) 16. Largo et sostenuto (7’13”) 17. Scherzo (5’34”) 18. Rondo Allegro (incomplete) (2’37”)

Our thanks to Dr Klaus Tischendorf for supplying scores of these rare works.

Wolf’s Lieder are so completely conceived within their medium that, short of orchestrating their piano parts, it is difficult to imagine them being presented convincingly in another guise. The option of a more-or-less free paraphrase was adopted by Bruno Hinze-Reinhold in his Piano Pieces based on ten of the Lieder, but he, as with Max Reger on this disc, was doubtless well-aware that any attempt at Lisztian filigree or abandonment of such carefully worked-out textures would depart unacceptably from the spirit of the original.

Max Reger is known to us above all as a master of the Germanic school of polyphony, and it seems to have been that aspect of Wolf’s work that most appealed to him. Reger’s choice is most frequently to submerge the vocal line in the midst of others, and not infrequently in a chordal texture, which creates a challenge for the performer that would not be altogether obvious to the casual listener. Indeed, by taking this approach, Reger causes us to question whether the vocal line is indeed primus inter pares, or whether at times it is in fact subordinate to the piano part. His transcriptions bring out the intricacy of Wolf’s writing and also enable the intensity of his world to be conveyed within broader tempi than could be comfortably sustained by the human voice. The result is something of a new departure that recasts these familiar works into a new sound-world.

The Piano Sonata op. 8 dates from 1876, when Wolf was aged 16 and in the midst of his two years of studies at the Vienna Conservatoire. In the previous year, he had met Wagner, who had encouraged him and would become a major model for the younger composer. However, Wolf’s impassioned temperament and tendency for outspokenness was not suited to the discipline of conservatory study and he was to part company with the institution on less than amicable terms. This sonata has some aspects reminiscent of Wagner’s own solo piano output, though more that suggest the influence of the Viennese classics, and also points to Wolf’s desire to explore the piano’s interpretative possibilities (as he would do later and with greater success in his Lieder).

The manuscript of the sonata is mostly devoid of dynamics and articulation, and in some aspects carelessly written, with many missing accidentals. Nevertheless, it is not difficult to discern Wolf’s intentions, and what emerges is an energetic and optimistic work which suggests a young man keen to make an impression and show ability in dealing with a large-scale compositional canvas. Already in the thematic material there is plenty of strength, with the slow movement particularly striking in its recall of Beethovenian and Schubertian models. Structural issues are mainly well-handled (though the development in the first movement is cursory at best). The last movement is incomplete, breaking off in the middle of an episode; the remaining pages were likely completed by Wolf but have since been lost.

The Albumblatt (1880) and Kanon (1882) are Wolf’s last works for solo piano; by now he had found his feet as a composer, though was suffering much emotional disturbance due to his unhappy affair with Vally Franck and a not altogether successful period as a music teacher in Vienna. The former work in particular, with its striking harmonies, shows that Wolf had marshalled the elements that would form his mature style.

Piano Sonatas of Eduard Franck (1817-93) vol. 2
John Kersey, piano
RDR CD88

Audio sample: Piano Sonata in C major, op. 40 no. 2: first movement

Price: £18.99. Click the button below to purchase this CD securely online.

Total time: 62 minutes 24 seconds

Piano Sonata in F major, op. 40 no. 1
1. Allegro (9’17”) 2. Allegretto (3’12”) 3. Allegro vivace (7’16”)

Piano Sonata in C major, op. 40 no. 2
4. Allegro risoluto (6’17”) 2. Andante sostenuto (7’31”) 3. Allegro vivace (5’18”)

Piano Sonata in G minor, op. 40 no. 3
7. Allegro (7’27”) 8. Allegretto (7’24”) 9. Allegretto (8’35”)

Our thanks to Andreas and Paul Feuchte for supplying scores of these rare works.

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.”

The six piano sonatas forming op. 40 were published in Berlin in 1882 and dedicated to Franck’s son Richard. They show his mastery of the sonata at its zenith, and in all likelihood were written over a number of years preceding their publication, along with the ten other sonatas that form Franck’s known output in this form.

All three of these sonatas demonstrate Franck’s key qualities of proportion and command of structure, within which a wide emotional canvas is developed. The shades of Beethoven and Schubert hover near, with the latter’s influence felt particularly in the Allegretto finale of the G minor sonata, whose second subject is notably Schubertian in design. Other passages in that work’s first movement recall figures from Beethoven’s G major sonata, op. 31 no. 1, though in a darker and more serious context than that work’s playfulness.

Franck generally puts the burden of argument in these sonatas upon the first movement, with the central movement acting as a contrast to this intensity and thorough working-out of the sonata form. In two of the sonatas, there is no true slow movement, with scherzo-like foils taking that place, although in the G minor sonata there are lyrical episodes that give something of a sense of an extended cantabile. The finale is then left to promote resolution, generally taking on a more humorous, Haydn-like character and treating motifs that open up multiple developmental possibilities. The choice of sonata-rondo form is another indication of Franck’s concern with development as an integral part of design; not for him the freer approach of Chopin, for example. With Franck, a Viennese formality is a part of that sense of proportion that holds head and heart in balance.

His sonatas are the stronger and more impressive for this element of restraint within boundaries. The listener will be struck by Franck’s economy of gesture over what is often quite a large-scale movement; not a note is wasted or out of place, and throughout a terse inner logic first explores the potential of the material and then ties it together in a typical extended coda.

Contrast is also a major strength of Franck’s approach. His choice of varied motivic material is deft and at times, such as in the second subject of the G minor finale mentioned above, gives rise to genuinely memorable and beautiful writing. These lyrical passages are often deceptively technically demanding; Franck was clearly an exceptionally able pianist and he takes few prisoners in his demands for stamina and agility, not to mention complex accompaniment-figures in double-notes.

The ‘Neue Zeitschrift für Musik” of 11 May 1883 reviewed the sonatas of op. 40 and op. 44 with the following words, “In all these works, a rich treasure of good German music is laid down. It is said of our time, that it brings forth no thorough Sonata, here we find a refutation of such a claim. Since Beethoven, only a few talented writers such as Ed. Franck have probably been called into existence. Almost all motives are created vividly before us and are well crafted. It is evident how versatile and diverse they are, especially from the fact that there is an underpinning of good counterpoint as if it were naturally present in the hands. Several of these [sonatas] deserve to be performed symphonically, because a dramatic element predominates in them. This Franck has always kept in mind, just as our classical piano masters treated their instruments, in so far as the piano is an orchestra.”

Piano Music of Robert Fuchs (1847-1927)
John Kersey, piano
RDR CD87

Audio sample: Improvisationen, op 11 no 1

Price: £18.99. Click the button below to purchase this CD securely online.

Total time: 68 minutes 31 seconds

Improvisationen, op. 11
1. Grazioso (2’31”) 2. Andante con espressione (2’38”) 3. Un poco con moto (2’13”) 4. Allegretto (1’12”) 5. Presto (2’58”) 6. Allegretto tranquillamente (4’40”) 7. Allegro (3’15”) 8. Allegro moderato (scherzando) (4’17”) 9. Tranquillo (2’35”)

Sommermärchen und Herbstblätter, op. 39 (excerpts)
10. Anmuthig (1’45”) 11. Etwas langsam, gemüthvoll (3’59”)

12. Capriccietti, 11 Stücke, op. 12 (19’25”)
Mässig bewegt – Im selben Tempo – Etwas ruhiger – Ziemlich geschwind – Mässig bewegt – Im selben Tempo – Langsam breit – Unruhig – Sehr ruhig – Bewegt – Finale

Ländliche Scenen, leichte Stücke, op. 8
13. Sommer-Morgen (1’49”) 14. Auf dem Teich (2’07”) 15. Verlassen! (1’08”) 16. Plaudernde Mädchen (00’38”) 17. Trauliches Plätzchen (1’12”) 18. In der Dorfschmiede (1’01”) 19. Die Schule ist aus! (00’40”) 20. Auf der Waldweise (1’15”) 21. Im stillen Grunde (1’58”) 22. Waldvögelein (1’24”) 23. Heimkehr vom Felde (1’48”) 24. Zur Kirmess (1’43”)

Our thanks to Dr Klaus Tischendorf for supplying scores of these rare works.

Robert Fuchs was born in 1847 in Styria, the youngest of thirteen children. He attended the Vienna Conservatoire where he studied with Felix Dessoff and Joseph Hellmesberger, and subsequently taught there, being appointed professor of music theory in 1875. He retired in 1912. The list of his pupils includes Sibelius, Mahler, Enescu, Wolf, von Zemlinsky, Korngold, Schmidt and Schreker, and it has been suggested by one critic that Mahler’s Second Symphony bears the marks of several “Fuchsisms”.

Fuchs disliked the promotional aspects of life as a composer and did little or nothing to promote his works during his lifetime. He preferred a quiet and comfortable existence in Vienna, where his teaching position ensured both financial security and the opportunity to continue his work as he saw fit. Nevertheless, his five serenades did achieve popularity in his time, earning him the nickname “Serenaden-Fuchs”. Conductors such as Nikisch also did much to champion his orchestral works, though with little ultimate result.

Fuchs was reasonably prolific in most areas of composition, including four symphonies, but it is his chamber and instrumental music that is regarded as his most personal and significant. Brahms, who was not overly given to praise of other composers, said of Fuchs, “Fuchs is a splendid musician, everything is so fine and so skillful, so charmingly invented, that one is always pleased.” One might add that Fuchs is a supremely balanced composer: sensitive yet formal in approach, and tending towards intimacy of expression while not being without the capacity to express a more extrovert drama.

Fuchs’ works for piano include three piano sonatas, which have been recorded in recent years, and a number of other cycles. The Improvisationen, op 11, show him to have absorbed the influences of Schumann, Brahms and Mendelssohn, and reveal a composer of considerable emotional range and an instinctive command of the capabilities of the piano. The Capriccietti, op 12, are a set of pieces designed to play continuously as a cycle, not unlike Schumann’s Humoreske, and with a finale that is reminiscent of that from his Symphonic Etudes. Away from these ambitious works, the Ländliche Scenen are simple pieces that present an idealized world of rural childhood. Unpretentious and melodic, they show Fuchs at his most genial and lyrically inspired.

Piano Music of J.P.E. and Emil Hartmann and August Winding
John Kersey, piano
RDR CD86

Audio sample: J.P.E. Hartmann: Fantasistykke

Price: £18.99. Click the button below to purchase this CD securely online.

Total time: 65 minutes 30 seconds

Johan Peter Emilius Hartmann (1805-1900):
1. Fantasistykke: Allegretto grazioso e moderato (5’08”)

August Winding (1835-99): Sommerminder, op 26
2. Feriestemning (1’49”) 3. Nyt Liv (1’27”) 4. J Sukkenes Allee I (2’14”) 5. J Sukkenes Allee II (1’59”) 6. Valse Impromptu (2’28”) 7. Serenade (2’35”) 8. Notturno (6’14”)

J.P.E. Hartmann
9. Introduction et Andantino religioso, op. 26 (7’00”)

August Winding and Emil Hartmann (1836-98): Fjeldstuen, ballet by A. Bournonville
10. Sæterpigernes Dands om det nydødbte Barn (Winding) (3’50”) 11. Astas Dands til Faderens Spil (Hartmann) (2’07”) 12. Bornene Fortælle om Astas Dands (Hartmann) (1’17”) 13. Menuet (Hartmann) (1’02”) 14. Huldredands (Winding) (1’28”) 15. Springdands (Winding) (3’50”) 16. Scherzo (Hartmann) (2’14”)

J.P.E. Hartmann: Novelletten: Sechs kleine Stücke, op 55
17. Allegretto (00’55”) 18. Allegro giocoso (1’07”) 19. Menuet-Tempo (2’04”) 20. Allegro vivace, assai (1’35”) 21. Andantino sostenuto (1’27”) 22. Allegro assai (1’48”)

Emil Hartmann: Sonata in F major, op 17
23. Allegro (2’59”) 24. Cantilene: Andantino (3’07”) 25. Rondo: Allegro grazioso (3’24”)

Our thanks to Dr Denys Waelbroeck for supplying scores of these rare works.

Johan Peter Emilius Hartmann succeeded his father at the Garnisons Kirke in 1824, and thereafter was successively professor at Copenhagen University and the founding director of the Conservatoire there from 1867. His studies in Europe in 1836 brought him into contact with Chopin, Rossini, Cherubini and Spohr. In musical style he successfully fused elements of Nordic nationalism with a post-Mendelssohnian style that at its most progressive (such as in op 74) clearly looks forward to Brahms. The quality of Hartmann’s inspiration and mastery of compositional and pianistic technique was considerable, and marks him out as the leading Danish composer for the piano of his generation.

Emil Hartmann, son of J.P.E., received his early training from his father and developed a successful career in his homeland and Germany, despite being somewhat eclipsed by his father’s fame. His unpublished Sonata shows a forward-looking grasp of the mid-Romantic idiom, with a powerful opening movement followed by two that were both left unfinished, interestingly when each had reached similar melodic ideas. His shorter works are gratefully written for the instrument, showing an apt grasp of the salon style of the turn of the century. The ballet Fjeldstuen (The Mountain Hut, or Twenty Years) to choreography by the royal ballet master August Bournonville was completed in 1859 and was the first significant work of Emil Hartmann, here collaborating with his brother-in-law August Winding, to come to public notice.

August Winding was the son of a pastor, and received his first piano lessons from his parents. In 1847 he studied with Carl Reinecke and from 1848-51 with Anton Rée, also studying composition with Niels Gade. In 1856 he completed his studies in Leipzig and Prague, where he studied with Dreyschock. Returning to Denmark, he became well-known for appearances as a soloist, particularly in Beethoven’s Fourth Piano Concerto. In 1864, he married Clara, daughter of J.P.E. Hartmann. From 1867 he taught at the Royal Conservatory, as well as privately. In 1872 he developed a nervous injury to his arm as a result of overwork which forced him to stop concertizing and devote his attention to composition. He resumed teaching at the Conservatory in 1881 and became a member of its board after the death of Gade in 1890. In 1888 he reappeared in public as a soloist and gave a limited number of concerts between then and his death, receiving the accolade of a state professorship and annuity in 1892.

Piano Music of August Winding (1835-99)
John Kersey, piano
RDR CD85

Audio sample: Winding: Prelude in C minor, op. 26 no. 8

Price: £18.99. Click the button below to purchase this CD securely online.

Total time: 63 minutes 18 seconds

Preludes in all the Keys: A Cycle, op 26
1. in C major: Poco Adagio, maestoso e con nobilità (2’07) 2. in A minor: Allegro agitato ed affetuoso (1’35”) 3. in F major: Comodo (1’25”) 4. in D minor: Allegro risoluto e energico (00’55”) 5. in B flat major: Allegro non troppo. Giocoso, con allegrezza (1’26”) 6. in G minor: Moderato con fierezza (3’13”) 7. in E flat major: Andante innocente e tenero (1’37”) 8. in C minor: Presto impetuoso (00’54”) 9. in A flat major: Allegro non troppo con dolcezza (1’17”) 10. in F minor: Allegro moderato, poco agitato (1’21”) 11. in D flat major: Con moto. Soave e con grazia (1’42”) 12. in B flat minor: Andantino quasi Allegretto, Grave e mesto (1’34”) 13. in G flat major: Allegro vivace con calore e molt’ animato (2’10”) 14. in E flat minor: Presto furioso e con strepito (1’25”) 15. in B major: Allegretto tranquillo e dolce (2’14”) 16. in G sharp minor: Allegretto dolente e malinconico (3’30”) 17. in E major: Moderato grazioso e con tenerezza (1’45”) 18. in C sharp minor: Allegro energico e molt’ appassionato (1’25”) 19. in A major: Allegretto dolce e piacevole (1’48”) 20. in F sharp minor: Andantino con duolo (1’45”) 21. in D major: Allegro con vivacità ed anima (1’08”) 22. in B minor: Adagio grave e lugubre (2’36”) 23. in G major: Allegro molto con gran vivacità (1’12”) 24. in E minor: Andante sostenuto, quasi una fantasia (3’01”) 25. Postludium in C major: Poco Adagio, maestoso e con nobilità (2’39”)

Landlige Scener: Skizzer for Piano, op 9
26. Med Tilegnelsen (1’58”) 27. Ved Daggry (1’55”) 28. Ved Kornmarken (2’45”) 29. I det Frie (1’33”) 30. Løvfald (2’24”) 31. Aftenstemning (2’44”) 32. Afsked (3’49”)

Our thanks to Dr Denys Waelbroeck for supplying scores of these rare works.

August Winding was the son of a pastor, and received his first piano lessons from his parents. In 1847 he studied with Carl Reinecke and from 1848-51 with Anton Rée, also studying composition with Niels Gade. In 1856 he completed his studies in Leipzig and Prague, where he studied with Dreyschock. Returning to Denmark, he became well-known for appearances as a soloist, particularly in Beethoven’s Fourth Piano Concerto. In 1864, he married Clara, daughter of J.P.E. Hartmann. From 1867 he taught at the Royal Conservatory, as well as privately. In 1872 he developed a nervous injury to his arm as a result of overwork which forced him to stop concertizing and devote his attention to composition. He resumed teaching at the Conservatory in 1881 and became a member of its board after the death of Gade in 1890. In 1888 he reappeared in public as a soloist and gave a limited number of concerts between then and his death, receiving the accolade of a state professorship and annuity in 1892.

Winding’s works include principally a large amount of solo piano music, particularly etudes, as well as a symphony, piano concerto, concert allegro for piano and orchestra, piano quartet, string quintet and two violin sonatas. This disc is the first to be devoted to his solo piano music.

The major cycle of Preludes in all the keys is dedicated to Isidor Seiss, the noted piano teacher and pupil of Friedrick Wieck. Unlike Chopin, Winding adopts a cycle of ascending fourths followed by their relative minors. This is a superbly varied and inspired series, with a lyrical emphasis throughout. Of particular note are the finely-drawn B flat minor (no. 12), perhaps the most reminiscent of Chopin, and the final E minor dark fantasia. The set ends with the first prelude returning as a postlude, having already been alluded to in the B minor prelude (no. 22).

The Landlige Scener (Rural Scenes) are an early work of Winding’s and show his distinctive voice already well-developed with clear progression from the world of Schumann and Mendelssohn. The movements are attractively descriptive, including Ved Daggry (at dawn), Løvfald (leaf fall), Ved Kornmarken (through the cornfield), Aftenstemning (evening mood) and Afsked (farewell). Winding’s father had a passion for collecting and arranging folk music and its contours are evident in a number of these effective, unpretentious pieces.

Piano Music of August Halm (1869-1929)
John Kersey, piano
RDR CD84

Audio sample: Halm: Prelude and Fugue in F sharp minor

Price: £18.99. Click the button below to purchase this CD securely online.

Total time: 66 minutes 5 seconds

August Halm
1. Prelude and Fugue in E minor (13’33”)
2. Pastorale and Andantino (8’30”)
3. Prelude and Fugue in C minor (8’21”)
4. Prelude and Fugue in F sharp minor (9’47”)
5. Praeludium and Invention (7’49”)

Adolf Schulz-Evler (1852-1905)
6. Echo de la Partita de J.S. Bach (3’45”)

Rudolph Niemann (1838-98)
Concert Suite, op. 34
7. Praeludium (3’22”)
8. Sarabande (1’51”)
9. Alla Gavotte (4’03”)
10. Bourrée (4’57”)

Our thanks to Dr Klaus Tischendorf for supplying scores of these rare works.

Notes on the music:
August Halm was the third son of Hermann Friedrich Halm and Charlotte Augusta (nee Kulmbach). His father was at that time pastor in Grossaltdorf. Halm reluctantly studied theology at the University of Tuebingen, combined with the study of composition. His teacher and promoter was Tuebingen’s director of academic music Emil Kauffmann. After an unenthusiastic beginning in ministry he sought two years of leave to study with Rheinberger, but found this uninspiring. He took work as a conductor and after the turn of the century he met Hermann Lietz , Gustav Wyneken and Paul Geheeb. From 1906 to 1910 and in the period from 1920 to 1929 he was active with Wyneken at his Free School in Wickersdorf near Saalfeld.

Halm was considered the most important music educator and spokesman of the musical youth movement, and worked to establish connexions between art and religion. His Free School developed ideas that would also be associated with Rudolf Steiner, such as child-centred, non-traditional learning in contrast to the regimented public school system. In its forest location and emphasis on nature (hiking movements that came to agitate for social reform were growing forces in the Germany of that time), it was also typical of the alternative living communities that Steiner’s Anthroposophy and indeed the wider Theosophical movement would generate in the early decades of the twentieth-century.

As a composer, Halm remained firmly in the model of Anton Bruckner, concentrating on the compositional techniques of the fugue and the sonata.  He did, however, establish a distinguished reputation as a music aesthetician as well as a writer on music. His writings, intended for the general public rather than other musicians, are characterized by a direct, obvious and clear language.

Those of Halm’s piano works collected on this disc show a clear development of Bachian language in a direction parallel to but distinct from Busoni’s new classicism. As a tonalist, Halm directed his attention away from modernism and towards breathing new life into Baroque forms and devices, in an attempt to recapture the vigour and purity of an idealized past. The result is music that is unusually individual while clearly showing its Teutonic influences in Bach, Beethoven and Bruckner. As in Reger’s world there is little concession to sensualism but instead an energy, clarity and logical purpose that propels the music with dynamic force and a structural cogency that is sometimes terse and rarely risks over-extension. The harmonic shifts, so much a part of Bruckner’s sound-world, have the capacity to pull the music sideways in an abrupt and striking fashion, but are deployed as part of a rigorous overall plan of the work in question. The E minor Prelude and Fugue, the longest in that genre, is a remarkable work making use of alternating themes and sections, and relying greatly on continuity of thought and line.

All that is known of Adolf (or sometimes Andrey) Schulz-Evler’s fifty or so compositions today is his popular showpiece Concert Arabesques on Strauss’s The Blue Danube, a fiendish Octave Etude (as yet unrecorded) and this little transcription of Bach, replete with huge chords and octaves in the manner of such transcribers as Stradal.

Rudolph Niemann is even less familiar, and this is the first recording of any of his music. He was the father of composers Walter and Gustav Adolph Niemann. The son of a local organist, he studied piano with Moscheles, travelling to Paris where he studied with Marmontel and Halevy, and then back to Berlin with Hans von Buelow. He undertook concert tours of Europe both as soloist and with the violinist Wilhelmj. From 1883 he taught at the Robert Fuchs Conservatoire in Wiesbaden. His Concert Suite continues the retrospective theme of this disc with its clear Baroque models and vigorous approach to reviving the old dance-forms.