Notes and Editorial Reviews
In one of my earliest contributions to Fanfare (27:2), I reviewed a two-CD set of solo piano works by Schubert played by Anthony Goldstone. Though I admit to being a bit cheeky about Goldstone’s determination to record every last shred of music Schubert ever wrote, even if it meant having to complete it himself, I concluded that Goldstone had obviously lived with the music and brought to it a great deal of understanding. The present disc lends additional credence to Goldstone’s propensity for bringing to our attention music that lurks just beyond the gate of the shining citadel on the hill. And in this case, thanks be to him for it.
Heinrich von Herzogenberg (1843–1900) was exactly 10 years Brahms’s junior, an important
figure in his own time, and an accepted member of Brahms’s inner circle. His output, very little of which is recorded or ever performed live, is quite extensive: eight symphonies, five string quartets, a string quintet, a pair each of piano trios and piano quartets, a quintet for winds with piano; a number of cantatas, motets, oratorios, and choral-orchestral works, among which are a mass and a requiem; and many part-songs for mixed choirs. There is also a considerable volume of pieces for piano and organ. He wrote no known concertos, and like Brahms, he eschewed opera. If today his name retains any claim to fame, it’s for his large-scale oratorio, De Geburt Christi, a complete recording of which is available on the Hänssler Classic label. Ironically, given his intimacy with Brahms, Herzogenberg’s own musical vocabulary reflects less of the great composer’s influence than does that of any number of other Brahms wannabes at the time.
Anthony Goldstone and his partner in the duo works on this disc, Caroline Clemmow, have done Herzogenberg and us an important service with this release. Four of the six headnote entries are first ever recordings. While these pieces want for nothing in terms of craftsmanship, melodic appeal, and impressive keyboard virtuosity, I find it a bit difficult to describe how they actually sound. Unmistakably, this music was incubated in the Brahms-Schumann nursery, but just as unmistakably, it does not quite resemble either parent. Not as emotionally charged or lyrically expressive as Schumann, and not as introspective, psychologically complex, or harmonically and rhythmically advanced as Brahms, Herzogenberg seems nonetheless to have forged a derivative style based on his models, yet one that manages to avoid slavish aping.
The Theme and Variations for Two Pianos, op. 13, the major work on the disc, (and one of the four items here receiving its first ever recording) is a prime example. Goldstone gives no date for the piece, but puts it on a level with Brahms’s Haydn Variations, which the Herzogenberg surely predates. Whether it is substantively comparable to the Brahms or not is arguable; but my own hearing of the piece places it closer to works like Schumann’s Symphonic Etudes and Brahms’s own Paganini Variations, which are as much demonstrations of formidable keyboard virtuosity as they are exercises in thematic development. Brahms’s Haydn Variations takes a symphonic approach to the form, which undoubtedly explains why the composer himself gave primacy to the orchestral version. Herzogenberg’s approach to the form, as to the style of writing, looks—Janus-like—both backward to Schumann and earlier Brahms and forward in a direction that hints ever so distantly at Busoni, Medtner, and Szymanowski.
This is an important addition to the catalog, and a most rewarding listen as well. Add to that excellent playing and recording for a strong recommendation.
FANFARE: Jerry Dubins
Works on This Recording
Allotria - Book 1, Op. 33 by Heinrich Herzogenberg
Anthony Goldstone (Piano),
Caroline Clemmow (Piano)
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