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Eduard ERDMANN (1896-1958)
Symphony No. 4, Op. 20 (1951) [34:37]
Monogramme (Eine kleine Serenade für Orchester), Op. 22 (1955) [11:13]
Ständchen für kleines Orchester, Op. 16 (1930) [15:47]
Brandenburgisches Staatsorchester Frankfurt /Israel Yinon
rec. Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach Konzerthalle, Frankfurt, 5-9 April 2005.
cpo 777 175-2 [61:57]

Pianophile collectors will know Erdmann’s name very well. Tahra is a label that has issued some of his performances over the years and the results make for enlightening, sometimes combative listening. But he also composed. As befits the holder of a number of prestigious academic positions and one of a group of similarly creative musician friends – Schnabel was another pianist-composer colleague – he found composition a necessary channel for his imagination.
Erdmann went into a kind of internal exile during the Second World War. He resigned a Cologne professorship in 1935 in protest at the Nazis and as a result his pre-War works were not performed. He concentrated therefore on his concert engagements. He resumed serious composition after the war finishing the last of his four symphonies in 1951. Other works followed but nothing as broad or ambitious in span.
The Symphony has influences from Stravinsky and Berg, much less so from Hindemith. It hardly qualifies as neo-classical, rather it’s tonal but acceptably modern in perspective. Erdmann makes great play of individual voices, often pitting piping winds against slow moving brass and bass blocks and then withdrawing to a single voice, say the clarinet. The stately, rather Bergian-sounding fugato in the first movement once again winnows to single voices. In this respect Erdmann seems to be enacting a curious kind of intimacy, possibly a play of individual and collective sound worlds in a constant sense of duality and apartness. Given his own personal history it’s easy to speculate that Erdmann was seeking a focus for some personal or political resolution - though speculation it must remain.
There’s no absence of acerbity – it’s present certainly but not to an over-balancing intensity – but the overriding impression is of a certain sectionality in which chattering sections evolve into moments of soliloquies from section leaders – the cello solo in the third movement for instance. They have a chamber intimacy about them, almost a confessional sense. The symphony ends quietly – as the foregoing might perhaps have intimated.
Monogramme (Eine kleine Serenade für Orchester) was his last work composed three years before his death. There are three movements and once again they have a chatty, rather Stravinskian profile - forthcoming dialogues, really. There remains however something slightly removed about the piece and for all the eloquence of the wind writing a clear self never quite emerges. The finale certainly reaches for the more bucolic end of the neo-classical spectrum; solo violin, brass blares, playful rhythmic impulse; nothing too serious.
Finally there’s Ständchen für kleines Orchester, the only example of his pre-war self on this disc. Again, neo-classicism rules. This loquacious work once again shows us Erdmann in truly democratic compositional form, throwing around orchestral solos like confetti. There’s a festive feel to the third movement finale – euphoric, emphatic, unfettered and pleasing.
The performance are splendid. Yinon encourages his players with a fine ear and a welcome generosity when it comes to individual phrasing and inflection. The cpo recording catches gradients and dynamics very naturally and warmly.

Jonathan Woolf

see also review by Kevin Sutton


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