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Harald GENZMER (b. 1909)
Sonata for Double Bass and Piano (1979) [14:37]
Sonata No. 2 for Cello and Piano (1977) [20:15]
Fantasie for Double Bass and Piano (1980) [6:52]
Six Bagatelles for Cello and Double Bass (1985) [10:56]
Sonata No. 1 for Cello and Piano (1953) [16:28]
Martin Ostertag (cello)
Nabil Shehata (double bass)
Oliver Triendl (piano)
rec. 9-10 July 2004 and 28-29 June 2005, SWR Studio Karlsruhe, Sendesaal
THOROFON CTH 2529 [72:50]


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Genzmer, like his teacher Hindemith, appears to have placed some importance on writing works for often-overlooked instruments, including a series of pieces written for recorder. The Thorofon series of Genzmer’s works, now with at least four discs, includes a trumpet concerto and chamber music in various combinations. Genzmer also shares his mentor’s liking for classical forms and counterpoint. Those who are admirers of counterpoint but who consider Hindemith somewhat dry might find some interesting listening in this series and particularly in this release.

The Double Bass sonata begins with a narration of the thematic material by the bass as the piano contributes chordal support. The piano then begins a rapid section with alternating chords. The overall sound reminds this reviewer of Alexander Tcherepnin as well as Hindemith. The Burleske continues the rapid pace, with the bass double-stopped and bell-like tones in the piano proving an effective and arresting moment. The Adagio afterwards is brooding and beautiful, performed wonderfully by Shehata, who bring out every ounce of this movement’s expressive potential. The expansive chords of the piano again show the stamp of Hindemith’s influence, as well as, in the concluding Vivace, the sound-world of Tcherepnin. The piano and bass trade off rapid passages, with the bass played to its extreme ranges. A pause, and the piece concludes.

The second cello sonata begins with Hindemithian chords, then the cello enters with a melodic line that is strongly reminiscent of Shostakovich. I’ve not been able to determine if this is a quote, but this reviewer found himself pillaging his memory of Shostakovich’s vocal works (Symphony 13? Michelangelo?). Regardless, the theme here is haunting. Like the Double Bass sonata, we have a slow brooding beginning section before the piano begins a busy Allegro. This movement ends decisively before moving into a perpetual movement Scherzo movement, dark in tone and rather agitated, with Bartókian arpeggiated chords as the cello races through its notes. 

In listening to these performances, Genzmer appears to place specific emphasis on the slow movements — the Bass sonata being the first example. Here in the second cello sonata, we start expectantly, with trills in the piano, as the cello interjects narrative lines. The impression is that of an aria; the cello giving a vocal part; an uneasy repose, if such can be said — the lullabies of Shostakovich’s vocal works, as mentioned above. This movement is a thing of great beauty that disturbs and disquiets.

Of the works that remain, I’ll go into detail on the first cello sonata. A space of over 25 years separates the second cello sonata from the first. The second has a larger scale, but we have the Genzmer characteristic of a slow narrative introduction, here with a “Bach meets the last movement of the Op. 147 Viola Sonata of Shostakovich” atmosphere. The contrapuntal element is here; the liner notes also mention — and it is easy to notice in the listening, that the thematic material is less camouflaged. As would be expected in this earlier piece, the Hindemith influence is also easier to discern, especially in the ending of the first movement and the chordal passages of the following Adagio. 

Well worth getting for fans of Hindemith, as would be the rest of the series on Thorofon, if the recording and performance quality are the same as with this release. The bass remains distinct in this recording, which could overpowered by the brighter tone of the piano. The playing is top-notch and the works hold interest. An enjoyable release. 

David Blomenberg 



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