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Hans FRANKE (1882-1971)
Piano Trio No.4 Op.792 in D minor
Piano Quintet No.3 Op.795 in F sharp minor
Piano Trio No.5 Op.801 in D major
Klaus Opitz (viola)
Trio inC: Joachim Enders (piano); Ingo de Haas (violin); Gisela Reith (cello)
Gesine Kalbhenn (violin)
rec. 25/26 March, 19 July 2003, Clara Wieck-Auditorium, Tonstudio van Geest, Heidelberg/Sandhausen. DDD
SIGNUM Germany SIG X126-00 [70'14]

Try a few bars of this music with your most innocent ear; Mendelssohn, Schumann, Brahms perhaps? All and none, because not a bar of this comes anywhere near those composers. They might have approved of it from their competent students – as student works – but would hardly have admitted it to their own œuvres.

Something of a surprise, then, that anybody should have bothered to record these works but a bigger shock are the years of composition: 1942 to 47. There is nothing on this CD that would have surprised a Viennese salon audience of 1870, except perhaps the complete absence of anything vaguely Wagnerian. There’s no pastiche here, no hint of irony; it simply seems that Franke had to compose, and he really only wanted to compose in the style of the teachers of his own teachers.

Had the works on this disc turned out to be excellent examples of that style, we might have had a debate on whether such extreme anachronisms have a place, but this is far from being the case. While the processing of the material is competent and the writing idiomatic for the instruments, the basic material, the ideas, are poverty-stricken in the extreme. I can’t recall one memorable phrase on the whole CD. Perhaps, in frustration, I’m exaggerating; the second movement andante of the D major Trio starts sweetly enough. But not much! I really wanted to say to this composer, ‘you’re obviously competent, try a little discord here or there, some harmonic spice’. After all, Franke lived in Darmstadt from 1950 to 1971; although the liner notes say that he was always interested in the work of other composers, we must assume that he did not attend the summer schools where Messiaen, Stockhausen, Boulez et al taught over those very same years.

I felt a little sad that 90% of Franke’s output (869 works in the catalogue!) was destroyed in the Dresden bombing of February 14, 1945 but I don’t think we have missed much.

I should say that the musicians play excellently on a good recording and I look forward to hearing them in music more worthy of their abilities.

Roger Blackburn

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