Notes and Editorial Reviews
Feldensamkeit. Wie Melodien zieht es mir. Sapphische Ode. Wiegenlied. Liebestreu. Minnelied.
Cello Sonata in f?.
Pieces for Cello and Piano
Johannes Moser (vc); Paul Rivinius (pn)
HÄNSSLER 93.208 (72: 38)
This is Volume 3 in a series tagged “Brahms and his Contemporaries.” I was delighted to receive the first
two volumes containing cello sonatas by Brahms, Fuchs, Herzogenberg, Strauss, and Zemlinsky, reviewed respectively in 31:2 and 32:1. The pairings in the previous releases made a bit more sense to me in that all of the works were originally written for cello and piano and their composers, if not exactly Brahms contemporaries, were at least the products of an Austro-German culture and heritage.
This latest volume strikes me a bit odd in a couple of ways. First, in turning to cello transcriptions of Brahms’s songs, the series has obviously exhausted the composer’s only two original works for cello and piano, the sonatas. And second, it’s a bit of a stretch, I think, to cast Giuseppe Martucci, (1856–1909) an Italian born almost a quarter of a century later, as a contemporary of Brahms. Martucci’s main commonality with Brahms was that he wrote no operas, a rarity for Italian composers of the period. In this, he may be seen as a pioneer in the resurgence of instrumental and orchestral music in Italy in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, a forerunner to the likes of Casella, Malipiero, Pizzetti, Respighi, and Rota.
That said, if Martucci’s F?-Minor Cello Sonata on this disc is representative of his output as a whole, it cannot be denied that Brahms was a strong influence; but the score is neither derivative nor the kind of sycophantic imitation one encounters in many of the works by Brahms’s true contemporary, Herzogenberg. Martucci’s Sonata is a big Romantic affair spread over four ample movements. It’s rich in harmony, interesting turns of phrase, striking modulations, and bold gestures. But in all of this, the weak element is melody, which is not to say that the piece is unmelodic but rather that it is melodically unmemorable. Still, it deserves to be heard, and it adds another title to the repertoire for cello and piano that I’ve cited in the past as fertile soil for cellists to explore as an alternative to recording the Brahms sonatas yet again. Another recording of Martucci’s Sonata on the Arts Music label with Arturo Bonucci and Antonio Bacchelli is listed, but I haven’t heard it. Moser, however—a cellist whose praises I’ve sung in the past—does Martucci full justice.
Theodor Kirchner, (1823–1903) not to be confused with American composer, Leon Kirchner (b. 1919) is one of the “discards” of German Romanticism who was well regarded and better known in his own time. His personal undoing seems to have been an addiction to gambling, but he earned a job recommendation from Mendelssohn, and later became part of the extended Schumann-Brahms circle. Unfortunately, his habit kept him in constant debt and unable to sustain his marriage or hold a permanent post for any length of time. He mostly traveled around Germany and Switzerland, earning a living as an itinerant pianist, accompanist, and arranger of others’ music, making arrangements of Brahms’s string sextets, piano trios, and
A German Requiem
. Kirchner’s main creative talent seems to have been for the solo piano miniature, those depictive keyboard narratives and songs without words that Mendelssohn and Schumann perfected. Recordings of Kirchner’s music—only about a dozen at current count—are very few in light of the approximately 1,000 entries in his catalog of works. I first discovered Kirchner several years ago from a Marco Polo CD containing a sampling of his piano pieces played by David Ianni, and I was immediately taken by the mellifluousness and suppleness of the writing. That CD seems to have disappeared from the regular listings, but its contents are available as a download from www.passionato.com. The Ianni disc then led me to a release on the Ars Musici label containing Kirchner’s C-Minor Piano Quartet, played by the Fauré Quartet, a quite stunning addition to the somewhat limited piano-quartet literature. Appropriately, it is coupled with Schumann’s Piano Quartet in E? Major. Unfortunately, it too has been deleted, but may still be available through some import source. Heard in its original instrumentation for cello and piano, not a transcription, Kirchner’s eight Pieces for Cello and Piano is a collection of some of the loveliest and most touching songs without words you will ever hear. The writing encapsulates the style and emotional affect of Brahms with uncanny prescience.
There is little to say about Brahms’s six songs for cello and piano on the disc other than that they
transcriptions of well-known songs originally scored for voice. Having recorded the two cello sonatas on Volumes 1 and 2 of this series, Moser has nothing left of the composer’s original works for cello and piano to play, which leads me to wonder why Martucci and Kirchner need Brahms as a crutch. There are still many little-known works for cello and piano from the time of Brahms and slightly later to be explored, and Moser is a superb candidate for the job. I look forward to future volumes that dispense with the “Brahms Contemporaries” catch. Strongly recommended for beautiful music, beautiful playing, and beautiful recording.
FANFARE: Jerry Dubins
Works on This Recording
Sonata for Cello and Piano in F sharp minor, Op. 52 by Giuseppe Martucci
Johannes Moser (Cello),
Paul Rivinius (Piano)
Written: 1880; Italy
Klavierstücke (8) for Cello and Piano, Op. 79 by Theodore Kirchner
Paul Rivinius (Piano),
Johannes Moser (Cello)
Written: 1886; Germany
Songs (9), Op. 69 by Johannes Brahms
Paul Rivinius (Piano),
Johannes Moser (Cello)
Notes: arr. Salter
Cello Sonata in F sharp minor, Op. 52: I. Allegro giusto
Cello Sonata in F sharp minor, Op. 52: II. Scherzo: Allegro molto
Cello Sonata in F sharp minor, Op. 52: III. Intermezzo: Andantino flebile
Cello Sonata in F sharp minor, Op. 52: IV. Finale: Allegro
6 Lieder, Op. 86 (arr. for cello and piano): 6 Lieder, Op. 86: No. 2. Feldeinsamkeit (Alone in a Meadow) (arr. for cello and piano)
5 Lieder, Op. 105 (arr. for cello and piano): 5 Lieder, Op. 105: No. 1. Wie Melodien zieht es mir (arr. for cello and piano)
5 Lieder, Op. 94 (arr. for cello and piano): 5 Lieder, Op. 94: No. 4. Sapphische Ode (arr. for cello and piano)
5 Lieder, Op. 49 (arr. for cello and piano): 5 Lieder, Op. 49: No. 4. Wiegenlied (arr. for cello and piano)
6 Gesange, Op. 3 (arr. for cello and piano): 6 Gesange, Op. 3: No. 1. Liebestreu (arr. for cello and piano)
5 Gesange, Op. 71 (arr. for cello and piano): 5 Gesange, Op. 71: No. 5. Minnelied (arr. for cello and piano)
8 Pieces for cello and piano, Op. 79: I. Andante cantabile
8 Pieces for cello and piano, Op. 79: II. Allegro scherzando
8 Pieces for cello and piano, Op. 79: III. Andantino
8 Pieces for cello and piano, Op. 79: IV. Allegro vivace
8 Pieces for cello and piano, Op. 79: V. Moderato cantabile
8 Pieces for cello and piano, Op. 79: VI. Allegro scherzando
8 Pieces for cello and piano, Op. 79: VII. Ruhig, ausdrucksvoll
8 Pieces for cello and piano, Op. 79: VIII. Allegro ma non troppo
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