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Gottfried Hendrik Mann: Clarinet Concerto; Violin Concerto

Mann / Manz / Baeumer
Release Date: 02/26/2013 
Label:  Cpo   Catalog #: 777620   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Johan Gottfried H. Mann
Performer:  Sebastian ManzAkiko Yamada
Conductor:  Hermann Bäumer
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 14 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

G. MANN Festival Prelude, Op. 95. Clarinet Concerto in c, Op. 90. Violin Concerto in d, Op. 101. Suite No. 3 in B?, Op. 98 Hermann Bäumer, cond; Sebastian Manz (cl); Akiko Yamada (vn); Osnasbrück SO CPO 777620 (73:40)

If there were an award for the most adventurous and enterprising Read more record company, CPO would take first prize. The number of dead and forgotten composers the company has exhumed is amazing. Granted, one or two might have been better left to decompose in peace, but most have proved to be exciting rediscoveries. Just within recent issues, there have been tantalizing CPO releases featuring works by Georg Schumann, Christian Westerhoff, Ernst von Gemmingen, Arnold Mendelssohn, and Dora Peja?evi?. In Peja?evi??s case, CPO seems to have made a special investment, for following previous albums of her chamber and orchestral music, a brand new two-disc set of still more of the composer’s chamber works has just been released, which you should find reviewed elsewhere in this issue. But this latest CPO offering takes the cake, both for composer obscurity and the indescribable, stunning beauty of the music.

At hand is the virtual anonymity, Johan Gottfried Hendrik Mann (1858–1904). If you check the Fanfare Archive, you will find several entries under Mann, but not one of them is this Mann, which is why I’ve included his first initial in the headnote, because I think he deserves an entry all to himself instead of being mixed in with a bunch of other composers who happen to share the same last name.

So obscure is Gottfried Mann that according to a very lengthy, very detailed, and very well-documented Dutch Wikipedia article on him, there has been only one previous recording of any of his works, and it just happens to be a more recent recording (2011) than this 2010 one of the same Clarinet Concerto, performed by clarinetist Giovanni di Falco and the State Television and Radio Orchestra of Moldova conducted by Vincenzo Cammarano on a III Millennio/Believe CD. Where you would find the actual disc outside of Moldova I have no idea, but through the universality of the Internet, you can listen to it on YouTube.

If you haven’t already guessed, Mann was Dutch. The English translation of the above-noted Dutch article, however, is another one of those candidates for the Fractured English Hall of Hell. But here’s what I was able to piece together, along with the considerably more readable album note. Mann showed musical promise from a very early age. His parents sent him to study with one Karel Emile Wagner who instructed the boy in piano, theory, and composition. Meanwhile, Mann’s father, confident of his son’s genius, had the chutzpah to send some of Gottfried’s early pieces to Ferdinand Hiller, Carl Reinecke, and Max Bruch. Bruch wrote a very diplomatic letter acknowledging the youth’s talent and expressing optimism for a bright future, given further instruction and diligence. Bruch did not, however, suggest taking Mann on as a student and neither, for that matter, did Reinecke. And so, in 1874, Gottfried’s parents enrolled him in the Royal Conservatory in The Hague. Completing his studies at the Conservatory and gaining practical experience as a violist in The Hague’s Royal French Theater Orchestra, Mann traveled to Paris, where he met Saint-Saëns, Delibes, and Massenet.

By 1882, we find Mann back in the Netherlands, where he becomes the conductor of the newly formed United Musicians Orchestra in Amsterdam. The orchestra folded after one year, so next, Mann lands a job conducting the New Park Orchestra, sharing the podium with Willem Kes who went on to become the first principal conductor of the Concertgebouw Orchestra. Mann’s first major success as a composer came in 1884 with the production of a ballet, The Dream of the Bell Ringer . It must have really rung the audience’s bell because it ran for more than 70 sold-out performances. Next came a Symphony in D Minor, which Mann dedicated to Massenet.

There’s much more to Mann’s biography, which I encourage you to read, either by struggling through the English translation of the Dutch Wikipedia article or by buying the CPO CD and reading the notes. The most valuable thing you will find in the Wikipedia article that is not included in the album notes, and that needs no translation, is a complete listing of Mann’s works, and it’s truly shocking how such a large body of music could have fallen into total oblivion.

With opus numbers alone, there are 118 entries, and without opus numbers, dozens more. There’s a ton of chamber works—piano trios, piano quartets, string quartets, wind quintets, violin sonatas, several piano sonatas, a symphony, the clarinet and violin concertos on this disc, three large-scale overtures, a number of miscellaneous orchestral pieces, numerous pieces for solo piano, and many songs for voice and piano. And among the works without opus number are fantasies for harmonium on popular operas by Rossini, Gounod, Wagner, Bizet, Delibes, Ambroise Thomas, and Massenet. Mann even made an arrangement for harmonium of Brahms’s Lullaby.

How is it possible that all of this could simply have been buried along with Mann when he died? Dr. John Smit of Hilversum, who authored the album note and is responsible for the extensive research into Mann’s life and work, as well as for unearthing these pieces, explains that many of the composer’s manuscripts are lost or may have been destroyed. Thus far, only two archives holding Mann’s compositions have been identified in the music library of Sempre Crescendo in Leiden and Amsterdam’s Toonkunst Bibliotheek. As Smit concludes with a sigh, “A long research journey remains ahead of us.” To that I would say there are some journeys worth taking and others not. This one is urgent, and I fervently hope that Dr. Smit and CPO will not give up the quest, for this is some of the most gorgeous, heartfelt, emotionally giving romantic music you will ever hear.

It’s hard to place these works in the context of their time and place. The only other fairly close contemporary of Mann I’m familiar with, and to whose music Mann’s bears certain superficial similarities, is Johan Wagenaar (1862–1941), but Mann seems to have been strongly influenced by his French counterparts, and more specifically their operas. Mann, by the way, worked on and off for several years on an opera of his own but never completed it.

In Mann’s Clarinet Concerto of 1885—a beautifully written piece that every clarinetist should be lining up to play—one is reminded of an aria by Gounod or Massenet in the touching Intermezzo; and in the last movement, marked Tempo di Polacca , one hears the influence of Lalo and Bizet in music that sounds more like those French composers’ imitation of Spanish style than it does anything Polish.

For something that does sound a bit more Polish/Gypsy, try the Violin Concerto of 1901, which seems to be channeling Wieniawski. Listen to the violin phrases starting at 1:59. They’re almost a direct quote from the first movement of Wieniawski’s Violin Concerto No. 2 in the same key. And like Wieniawski, Mann has a thing for runs in octaves. This is a real virtuoso knockout, if not a knockoff, sure to be appreciated by anyone who loves violin showpieces. In the last movement, Paganini gets into the act with some ricochet bowing and left-hand pizzicato, but the style is closer to that of Saint-Saëns’s Gypsy-themed Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso.

The Festival Prelude is an occasional piece, a throwaway, if you will, written in 1890 for one-time performance at a specific event, a ceremony celebrating the 25th anniversary of Willem Frederik Gerard Nicolai as director of the Royal Conservatory in The Hague. The Prelude opened the program and was praised for its “naturalness and freshness” and for how “self-evidently this man [Mann] commands his art.” Having served its purpose, in all likelihood, the piece was never performed again, until now for this recording.

The Third Orchestral Suite was composed in two stages. Mann began work on it in 1889, completing the first and third movements. Then, for whatever reason, he set the work aside and didn’t return to it until 1896. The earlier completed third movement, titled “Arab Song,” enjoyed great popularity and wide circulation as a stand-alone piece within Holland. Other than featuring a prominent part for solo oboe throughout the movement, the music doesn’t really flirt with the kind of exoticisms we tend to associate with a Middle Eastern melos. Mann’s Arabian musical portrait is more one of a gentle landscape that doesn’t seem to have a specific geographic locus.

All of the contributors to this program are first-rate. I’d especially single out, though, Akiko Yamada, who tosses off the virtuosic fusillades in Mann’s violin concerto with equal measures of panache and poise. Sebasatian Manz, too, delivers Mann’s clarniet concerto with limpid, liquid tone and fine technique. The Osnabrück Symphony Orchestra was recently heard from on the above-noted CPO disc of works by Christian Westerhoff. It’s a solid sounding, well-rehearsed ensemble under the able command of its conductor Hermann Bäumer.

I can almost guarantee that this CD will top my 2013 Want List. But more importantly, it should top yours.

FANFARE: Jerry Dubins
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Works on This Recording

Feest Preludium, for orchestra, Op. 95 by Johan Gottfried H. Mann
Conductor:  Hermann Bäumer
Period: Post-Romantic 
Written: 1890 
Date of Recording: 08/2010 
Venue:  Stadthalle Osnabrück 
Length: 10 Minutes 17 Secs. 
Clarinet Concerto in C minor, Op. 90 by Johan Gottfried H. Mann
Performer:  Sebastian Manz (Clarinet)
Conductor:  Hermann Bäumer
Period: Post-Romantic 
Written: 1885 
Date of Recording: 08/2010 
Venue:  Stadthalle Osnabrück 
Length: 21 Minutes 0 Secs. 
Violin Concerto in D minor, Op. 101 by Johan Gottfried H. Mann
Performer:  Akiko Yamada (Violin)
Conductor:  Hermann Bäumer
Period: Post-Romantic 
Written: 1901 
Date of Recording: 08/2010 
Venue:  Stadthalle Osnabrück 
Length: 17 Minutes 6 Secs. 
Suite for orchestra No. 3 in B flat major, Op. 98 by Johan Gottfried H. Mann
Conductor:  Hermann Bäumer
Period: Post-Romantic 
Date of Recording: 08/2010 
Venue:  Stadthalle Osnabrück 
Length: 24 Minutes 27 Secs. 

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