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Heinrich von HERZOGENBERG (1843-1900)
Klavierquartett op.75 in E minor
Streichtrio op.27/1 in A major

Andreas Frölich (piano)
Belcanto Strings (Wolfgang Schröder, Daniel Raiskin, Ramon Jaffe)
rec Berlin, May & June 2000
CPO 999 765-2 [57.22]

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Little known now, and apparently new to CMOTW, this creator of a substantial corpus of chamber works was a devotee of Brahms (Brahms was rather more so of Herzogenberg's wife) who had resisted the allure of Wagner and he was a successful composer in his time. I found the string trio (1879) dull, its steady rhythms chuntering on interminably with predictable modulations, but the piano quartet (1892) is quite a different matter, and well worth knowing - Brahms' own piano quartets, though regularly played, are variable in quality.

This one clearly derives its emotional power, which is considerable, from the early death of Elizabeth Herzogenberg in January 1892. He took refuge in composition and completed this quartet, which had been begun during her illness and when his own health had deteriorated - he spent two years in bed with rheumatic joint trouble, this costing him his post as Professor of Composition in Berlin. It is in four movements and lasts half an hour, generally serious, with a scherzo which 'convulses mournfully', and an elegiac moderato finale, which ends quietly. It should appeal to the ageing members of chamber music societies who like what they know and know what they like.

Performances and recording satisfactory; the string players, respectively from Germany, Russia and Latvia, met in England at the Prussia Cove Festival in 1993. This CD, rather short measure, complements one released on the centenary of Herzogenberg's death CPO 999 710-2, with another string trio and piano quartet and Legends op. 62 for cello and piano - I have enjoyed playing some of his pleasant cello music with a friend.

Peter Grahame Woolf

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