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Goltermann nocturnes MS1673
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Georg Goltermann (1824-1898)
Nocturnes and Romances
Katherine Decker (cello), Eun-Hee Park (piano)
rec. 2019, Oshkosh Music Hall, University of Wisconsin, Oshkosh, USA

When a composer’s Wikipedia biography runs to only one hundred words, you know he is obscure. Presto’s database lists just five other recordings that include Goltermann’s music, in each case just a single work. So this MSR Classics release is the only recording dedicated to his music, a cause for congratulations for those concerned. I read with interest that the copyright belongs to cellist Katherine Decker, not to the label, which is not something I’d noticed before.

So who was Georg Goltermann? Born in Hanover, he studied cello there and in Munich, where he was also taught composition by Franz Lachner. He had a brief career as a concert soloist, before spending most of his working life in Frankfurt at the Stadttheater, eventually rising to the post of Chief Conductor. He was a prolific composer for orchestra as well as small ensembles. According to this site’s Cello Concerto Project, he wrote eight concertos, but only one and a bit have commercial recordings – the “bit” is the slow movement from the first, recorded by both Casals (review) and Salmond (review). He also wrote dozens of short works for cello and piano, some possibly intended as encore pieces when he was a soloist, but mainly for playing in the home.

Katherine Decker writes in her booklet notes of the “easy-going melodies, the simplistic beauty of line and the ease of playing”. This describes the twenty-two pieces here perfectly, but also gives a clue to the main problem with the disc. The works range in duration from 1:23 to 5:18, and, with the exception of Romance No. 2 from Opus 95 (ironically the shortest), are all slowish. I looked at a few of the scores on IMSLP and the tempos ranged from Adagio to Andante quasi Allegretto – I suspect op. 95/2 is perhaps Allegro non troppo. Any individual piece is gentle, flowing and charming, but almost indistinguishable from any other. Katherine Decker reports very positive audience response to the inclusion of a few of the pieces in her concerts, which I can quite understand, because they are charming. However, I suspect that the audience would have started to become restive had she played more than a few.

Katherine Decker’s cello playing is very smooth, with a rich timbre, which perfectly suits this music, though I did think that perhaps there could be a little more variation in dynamics to provide some contrast. Goltermann’s requirements for the pianist are fairly limited; the recording sessions would have been a relatively easy few days for pianist Eun-Hee Park. The booklet notes provide good information about Goltermann (more comprehensive than Wikipedia) and the nature of the pieces in general. Decker wisely doesn’t attempt to analyse individual pieces at all. The sound quality is very natural.

I find myself in something of a quandary regarding this album. It is valuable in presenting these forgotten works, and the music is enjoyable, but I could not possibly suggest that anyone listen to it all the way through at one sitting. Given that is what most people would intend when purchasing any album, you will see my dilemma.

David Barker


Nocturne in B minor (Notturno et Saltarello, Op 59, No 1)

Trois Morceaux de Salon, Op 92
No 1: Nocturne in E minor
No 3: Romance in F major

Trois Romances symboliques, Op 95
Romance No 1 in C major, “La Foi” (Faith)
Romance No 2 in A major, “La Charité” (Charity)
Romance No 3 in F major, “L’Espérance” (Hope)

Nocturne in C major (Quatre Morceaux de Salon, Op 102, No 1)

Trois Romances sans paroles, Op 90
Romance No 1 in G major
Romance No 2 in C major
Romance No 3 in D minor

Nocturne in D minor (Quatre Morceaux Caractéristiques, Op 43, No 3)
Nocturne in G major (Suite of Four Solos, Op 49, No 1)
Nocturne in G major (Quatre Morceaux Caractéristiques, Op 54, No 1)
Romance in D major (Modern Suite, Op 122, No 2)
Romance in D major (Quatre Morceaux de Salon, Op 35, No 1)
Nocturne in A minor (Trois Morceaux Faciles, Op 115, No 3)
Romance in A minor (Romance et Tarantelle, Op 60, No 1)
Romance in E minor, Op 17

Trois Nocturnes, Op 125
Nocturne No 1 in G major
Nocturne No 2 in E-flat major
Nocturne No 3 in F major

Romance in A major (Four Salon Pieces, Op 96, No 1)

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