CPO label from Germany are doing sterling work to promote the
music of many European Romantic composers who although highly
esteemed during their lifetimes have fallen out of vogue.
is rather a mystery man in the classical music pantheon, His oeuvre
of over eighty opus numbers has been forgotten for many years.
Today his name is occasionally mentioned but his music is almost
never heard. For some reason Kiel’s name does not warrant an entry
in Grove OnLine, although one appeared in several of the older
editions of Grove. A quick Google reveals that from the
relatively small number of recordings available it is his large
chamber music output that takes the lion’s share. The scores most
likely to be encountered are the: Piano Concerto in B flat
major, Op. 30; Missa Solemnis, Op.40; Cello Sonatas,
Op. 52 and Op. 67; Kleine Suite for cello and piano,
Op. 77; three Piano Trios, Op.65; two Piano Quintets,
Op. 75 and Op. 76; three Romances for viola and
piano, Op. 69; two Piano Quintets, Op. 75 and Op. 76
and a number of piano and organ pieces. The main sacred choral
works are the two Requiems, Op. 20 and Op. 80; Stabat
mater, Op. 25; Missa Solemnis, Op. 40; Te Deum,
Op. 46 and the oratorios Star of Bethlehem, Op. 83 and
Christus, Op. 60 of which Liszt wrote was, “a work full
of spiritual substance, of noble and fine sentiments, and masterly
son of a schoolteacher, Kiel was born in 1821 at Puderbach situated
in the Westerwald near Koblenz in Germany. Largely self-taught
Kiel as a young boy received piano tuition from provincial teachers.
Around 1835 he joined the ensemble of the Sayn-Wittgenstein-Berleburg
court. Around 1838-39 he studied with court musician Caspar
Kummer at Coburg and then in 1842 with the aid of a stipend
from King Frederick William IV of Prussia he became the student
of Siegfried Dehn in Berlin.
in Berlin, Kiel became a much-in-demand music teacher. In 1866
he was teaching at the Stern Conservatory; later elevated to
a professorship. In 1869-70 he became a professor at the newly-founded
Hochschule für Musik (Academy of Music) at Charlottenburg, Berlin.
He was also a council member of the Berlin Academy of the Arts.
of Kiel’s students went on to make considerable reputations
for themselves in the music world including: Charles Villiers
Stanford, Arthur Somervell, Frederic Cowen, Johan Gustav Sjögren
and Ignacy Jan Paderewski.
Edward DannreutherB wrote in 1905 that Kiel was one
of the adherents of the school of the Romantic master Robert
Schumann; a group that included fellow composers: Robert Volkmann;
Hermann Goetz; Theodor Kirchner and Adolf Jensen. He was held
in high regard by his peers and the influential musicologist
and critic Wilhelm Altmann wrote that, “throughout my long
life, I have found Kiel’s chamber music a never-failing source
had a penchant for the piano and he included a piano part in
twenty-seven of his scores. The three Piano Quartets were,
it seems, composed in chronological order and published in 1867-68
by Simrock of Berlin. Although Kiel, “followed in the wake
of Schumann”C and was a close contemporary of
Brahms these chamber scores are heavily influenced by middle-period
Beethoven at a time that encompassed several of the master's
great chamber works such as the: 6 ‘Lobkowitz’ Quartets,
Op. 18; the 3 ‘Rasoumovsky’ Quartets , Op. 59;
2 Piano Trios, Op. 70; the Quartet in E flat
major, Op. 74 ‘Harp’; Quartet in F minor,
Op.95 ‘Serious’ and the Piano Trio in B
flat major, Op. 97 ‘Archduke’. Even though Kiel’s
these piano quartets look back to Beethoven I hope that
now, well over a century later, we are able to re-evaluate Kiel’s
compositions for their intrinsic appeal and quality rather than
for the dynamic of the era in which they were written.
four-movement Piano Quartet No. 1 was printed in 1867
during a happy time in his personal life following his appointment
at the Stern Conservatory. According to music writer Hartmut
Wecker, “the A minor Quartet seems to have
been Kiel’s most successful and most famous such work.”
The substantial opening movement Allegro moderato con spirito
is given a spiritedly brisk performance by the players.
Running through the movement are two variegated sections at
3:21-5:04 and 6:35-9:35 that contain undercurrents of sadness
and discontent. The second movement Adagio con moto conveys
tenderness and lyricism in profusion and the somewhat edgy Scherzo
movement rather canters along. Joyous and vivacious playing
in the final movement marked Vivace that contains an
endearing Beethoven-like theme at 0:48-1:29, 2:51-3:32 and 6:28-7:10.
After hearing this splendid performance one wonders why the
score does not receive the occasional outing at chamber recitals.
Piano Quartet No. 2 Op. 44 is also cast in four movements.
Hartmut Wecker considered it “… merrier and more melodic
than its sister work in A minor.” In the extended opening
movement the players contrast a yearning reflectiveness with
an abundance of restless energy. The following Intermezzo
is brooding nervousness with episodes of gentle repose.
The dark storm-clouds of the Largo convey an intense
and heavy sadness. The concluding movement is a bright and capricious
Rondo with a brilliant Presto stretta ending.
a three movement design the Piano Quartet No. 3, Op.
50 was printed in 1868, a year later than the A minor and
E major scores. The opening movement, an Allegro moderato
is permeated with pessimistic and melancholy utterances.
One notices the use of a brighter dance-like theme that is first
heard at 1:29 and again at 2:40. The players in the central
movement Andante bring out a convincing hymn-like quality.
There are two variegated sections. The first at 1:29-2:25 is
relaxed, containing an almost oriental flavour and the second
at 2:45-4:03 has a brisker more energetic character. The final
movement marked Presto assai trips along with an ebullient
gaiety to provide a satisfying conclusion to the score.
found the booklet essay by Harmut Wecker a most useful point
of reference and it certainly enhances this CPO disc. The track-listing
of the final work on the disc the Piano Quartet No. 3 in
G major, Op. 50 is incorrectly numbered. The recording was
made in 2005 at the SWR Studio in Karlsruhe. Piano and strings
is a notoriously difficult combination to balance and the Op.
45 work sounded slightly over-bright in the forte passages.
Otherwise the remaining two works are clear and well balanced.
unity and assurance the players communicate a clear affection
for Kiel’s music. At the keyboard Oliver Triendl plays with freshness
and vitality producing a wide range of colour. I was struck by
the exemplary intonation and pleasing timbre from the string trio.
These high quality performances make a splendid case for a reassessment
of the music of Friedrich Kiel. Those who have a fondness for
Romantic chamber music should not hesitate. One looks forward
to more recordings of Kiel’s chamber works and also of his sacred
A Letter from Liszt to Otto Lessmann dated Weimar, 24 September
B Oxford History of Music, Vol. VI, ‘The
Romantic Period’ by Edward Dannreuther. Publisher: Clarendon
Press, Oxford (1905). Pg 289.
C ‘The Romantic Leaders’ article ‘From Beethoven
to Brahms’ section of the chapter ‘Chamber Music’ by
Edwin Evans. Contained in The Musical Companion, edited
by A. L. Bacharach published by Victor Gollancz Ltd. London (first
published 1934). Pg 519.