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Pepping: Symphonies 1-3, Piano Concerto / Albert, Et Al

Release Date: 05/16/2006 
Label:  Cpo   Catalog #: 777041   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Ernst Pepping
Performer:  Volker Banfield
Conductor:  Werner Andreas Albert
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Northwest German Philharmonic Orchestra
Number of Discs: 2 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 2 Hours 14 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

PEPPING Symphonies: No. 1; No. 2; No. 3. Piano Concerto ? Werner Andreas Albert, cond; Nordwestdeutsche Philharmonie; Volker Banfield (pn) ? cpo 777 041 (2 CDs: 133: 34)

This is a curious but very illuminating release, filling another significant gap in our knowledge of German music during the first half of the 20th century. Ernst Pepping (1901?1981) was not really a major figure in this era but he managed to carve out a special niche as a respected composer of Lutheran church music of a notably austere mien. Yet Read more here we have a rare opportunity to experience a large part of his relatively meager orchestral output in absolute forms.

Although Pepping contributed a few spicily modernist scores to contemporary music festivals in the late 1920s and early 1930s, he then seemed to have undergone a reactionary turnabout during the beginning of the Nazi period, so that his First Symphony of 1939 sounds like a half-hearted attempt to write a kind of folkishly popular manifesto for the masses. This half-hour work utilizes an obstinately diatonic idiom with a heavy-handed brand of Prussian joviality interspersed with brief cadences of faux solemnity, which almost make this listener wonder if Pepping does not sometimes have his tongue in his cheek (without even being fully aware of it?). The themes are forthrightly appealing, but they promise more than can be delivered; before too long the symphony lapses into repetitively shallow banalities.

The Second Symphony, written in 1942 in the midst of World War II, shows little awareness of this catastrophic context. Pepping was one of those composers the Nazis tolerated, not only because his style was more or less conservative but also because he was apolitical, almost to the point of obliviousness. The Second seems like an endless (almost 40 minutes) and perhaps desperate effort to limn the past glories of German music, with Strauss and Wagner as inspirational figureheads, but presented in a more plebeian and down-to-earth manner. Furtwängler?s premiere of the work was once available on the Grammophon historical label, but even he could not transform its aggressive but episodic grandiosities into anything substantial or coherent.

After the war, Pepping seemed gradually to move into a more comfortable phase, and the Third Symphony of 1944 and especially the Piano Concerto of 1950 reflect this change. But these were his last two orchestral scores, because for the last 30 years of his life he abandoned instrumental music altogether. Subtitled ?Times of the Day,? this Third Symphony is more of a programmatic suite modeled on Strauss?s Domestic Symphony , and as such it maintains a moderate level of interest and hangs together better over the long run than do its two predecessors. Here, Pepping appears to have dropped his public manner of pretending to make a major statement; he just allows his characteristic farrago of aborted fanfares, quickstep allegro outbursts, and sudden swervings into sentimental bathos carry the day. At 38 minutes, it is still too over-elaborated, but it has a hearty geniality and surefootedness that do not grate on the listener?s patience too much.

But the highlight of this program is the unexpectedly dazzling showpiece of a Piano Concerto. After a slow and tentative opening, the music launches into a fast and purposeful montage of interesting and self-contained ideas treated in a naturally economical and even effervescent way that is remarkably stylish, given what has gone before. Pepping has finally found how to convey his thoughts without pomposity or pretension, and it?s too bad he did not go on to write more music in this vein.

The performances are always nothing less than fully professional, though perhaps a bit impassive, but cpo is to be rewarded and encouraged in their continuing effort to cast light into the forgotten byways of 20th-century German music. Pepping?s exact contemporary?and a much better composer?Hermann Reutter should be added to the list. And what about the once highly lauded and now totally ignored Max Trapp? Surely his six symphonies and half-a-dozen concertos, which were also found worthy by the likes of Furtwängler, deserve some kind of exploration?

FANFARE: Paul A. Snook
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Works on This Recording

Symphony no 1 by Ernst Pepping
Conductor:  Werner Andreas Albert
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Northwest German Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1939; Germany 
Venue:  Schützenhofsaal, Herford, Germany 
Length: 32 Minutes 7 Secs. 
Notes: Schützenhofsaal, Herford, Germany (01/27/1992 - 01/30/1992) 
Symphony no 2 in F minor by Ernst Pepping
Conductor:  Werner Andreas Albert
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Northwest German Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1942; Germany 
Venue:  Schützenhofsaal, Herford, Germany 
Length: 41 Minutes 10 Secs. 
Notes: Schützenhofsaal, Herford, Germany (01/24/1994 - 01/27/1994) 
Symphony no 3 "Die Tageszeiten" by Ernst Pepping
Conductor:  Werner Andreas Albert
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Northwest German Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1944; Germany 
Venue:  Schützenhofsaal, Herford, Germany 
Length: 38 Minutes 15 Secs. 
Notes: Schützenhofsaal, Herford, Germany (11/22/1993 - 11/25/1993) 
Concerto for Piano by Ernst Pepping
Performer:  Volker Banfield (Piano)
Conductor:  Werner Andreas Albert
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Northwest German Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1950; Germany 
Venue:  Schützenhofsaal, Herford, Germany 
Length: 22 Minutes 2 Secs. 
Notes: Schützenhofsaal, Herford, Germany (04/03/1995 - 04/07/1995) 

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