Notes and Editorial Reviews
Complete Piano Works, Volume 1
Ana-Marija Markovina (pn)
GENUIN 11205 (2 CDs: 91:29)
Morceaux. Cavatine und Arabeske. 5 Fantasiestücke
This disc is my first experience with the music of Anton Urspruch (1850–1907), and there is just one other disc of works by the composer in the
Archive, a collection of vocal works reviewed by Henry Fogel—also his
first exposure to the composer. His assessment of the quality of Urspruch’s work closely matches my own: a talented composer in the Viennese Romantic tradition, skilled and inventive but a notch or two below his more famous contemporaries and predecessors. Recordings of his music have been slow to come, even in our era of fervent rediscovery. Besides this disc of his complete solo piano works by Ana-Marija Markovina and the aforementioned vocal samplings, cpo is currently producing a couple of releases.
Urspruch certainly ran in the best circles; his teachers included Raff and Liszt, and he was on speaking terms with Clara Schumann and Brahms. His biographical summary may a tired historical cliché, but he was indeed well known and respected in his day but largely forgotten after his death.
So was posterity correct to dismiss him so quickly? Not entirely. Granted, this survey of his complete piano works doesn’t reveal the layers of depth found in works of Brahms, Wagner, or even Bruckner. But there is enough melodic inventiveness, harmonic ingenuity, and formal skill to justify an occasional hearing. His limited but interesting keyboard output certainly has found a worthy champion in Markovina. Her readings are sensitively colored, sensibly paced, and persuasively idiomatic.
draw on a wealth of 19th-century Viennese traditions, from Schubert in the opening pages to a healthy dose of Brahms in the middle movements. In the final movement he seems finally to have found a voice that is more personal and a more up-to-date representation of the turmoil of the contemporary arts in the later part of the century. The
Cavatine und Arabesque
are a bit less interesting, pleasant enough but more redolent of the salon than the concert hall. They sound as if they might date from an early period in his life, but in fact they are contemporaneous with the
The best work is the
, a set of character pieces that sound more deeply felt and introspective than the others. The first is a bit on the long side; the composer seems smitten with his own tune and is perhaps too reluctant to let it go, a flaw that emerges again in the final piece. Aside from these lapses in proportional restraint, these are fine works, with strong lyrical strains that often conjure Schumann and Brahms. Markovina plays all three with expressive ease, tempered with a healthy dose of restraint. If Romantic piano repertoire is your weakness and you’re looking for something off the beaten path, this disc is a perfect choice.
FANFARE: Michael Cameron
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