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Heinrich Von HERZOGENBERG (1843-1900)
Theme and variations for two pianos Op.13 (pub. 1870) [18.25] *
Allotria for piano duet Op.33 Book 1 (pub. 1882) [7.49] *
Variations on a theme of Brahms Op.23 (pub. 1876) [12.40]
Waltzes for piano duet Op.53 (pub. 1887) [10.04]
Variations on the Minuet from Don Juan for piano solo Op.58 (pub. 1889) [14.02] *
Capriccio for piano solo Op.107 (pub. 1900) [13.45] *
* first recording
Anthony Goldstone and Caroline Clemmow (piano duo/piano duet)
Anthony Goldstone (piano solo)
rec. St John the Baptist Church, Alkborough, North Lincolnshire, February 2004
TOCCATA CLASSICS TOCC 0010  [77.24]

 



For Brahms enthusiasts the name of Heinrich von Herzogenberg will be known, for most as a recipient or originator of letters between the two men in the Kalbeck edition of Brahms’ collected correspondence. The two men were friends for twenty years, though being a friend of Brahms was never easy. Bruch got the abrasive treatment at times, so too did Herzogenberg, who admired Brahms (ten years his senior) to the point of adulation.

Herzogenberg studied conducting under Dessoff, and moved to Leipzig where, with Spitta, he formed the Bach Verein (Association), soon becoming its conductor. From 1885 he taught composition at the Berlin Hochschule. His own works include many sacred and secular choral compositions, some 150 songs, three symphonies (plus five unpublished ones), chamber music, sonatas and keyboard music. Links with English music and musicians include an assessment of the 25 year-old Vaughan Williams, whom he passed on (briefly as it turned out) to his faculty colleague at Berlin, Max Bruch. The other was Ethel Smyth who, in their Leipzig days, the Herzogenbergs took under their wing almost as an adoptive daughter as well as pupil. ‘A more learned musician can never have existed’, she wrote in her memoirs.

Herzogenberg was one of those who broke free from the throttling influence of Wagner and switched allegiance to Brahms after they met, when Brahms moved to Vienna in 1862 and Herzogenberg was studying there with Dessoff. There’s not much sign that the influence of the one giant was any less pervasive than the other. Both men cast vast shadows and Herzogenberg and many others never broke free. Nevertheless he enjoyed a highly respectable and respected reputation. Though Elisabeth’s opinion was well thought of by Brahms when he sent them a new work, he hardly reciprocated by encouraging her husband. It would probably not have been anything but an uneven contest, but any such gesture would have been welcomed and Herzogenberg’s self-confidence less scarred. Perhaps, as Anthony Goldstone surmises, Brahms had more serious feelings for Elisabeth Herzogenberg (her picture adorned his desk for many years up to his death) than he should have had, and may indeed have coloured his opinion of her husband’s music.

This is a beautifully constructed disc, powered by the immense and justified enthusiasm for Herzogenberg which the Goldstone Clemmow duo (Mr and Mrs Goldstone) have had for many years and which communicates to the listener in powerful interpretations of a well-chosen selection of the composer’s music. The opening Theme and Variations holds its own with the best of Schumann and Brahms, its textures conjuring sounds way beyond that of two pianos into either the realms of the organ or the orchestra. Then comes a lighter trio of short pieces entitled Allotria (‘strange things’ in ancient Greek, Goldstone suggests ‘curiosities’ in English), charming music and fun for skilful duettists of the salon of the day. The Brahms theme on which Herzogenberg wrote his loosely shaped - ‘a series of metamorphoses’ writes Goldstone in his excellent booklet notes - is from the song ‘Die Traurende’, the fifth from Op.7, and again Brahms was hardly generous in receiving the work with its dedication. But one cannot help feeling that Herzogenberg set himself up as a target for Brahms’ whiplash tongue when he writes ‘You as a great master, would be hard put to it, indeed to respond to, or even to grasp all the affection you inspire by your mere existence, by your presence’. More than once Elisabeth came to the rescue and put Brahms in his place, something which Clara Schumann could also do; she was ‘astonished by their (the Variations) deep thoughtfulness’. The following half dozen Tyrolean-style waltzes have Schubertian overtones, and apparently the hand-crossings can engender a rather intimate relationship between the performers! 

The disc ends with Goldstone alone - surely the hand-crossings did not lead to a falling-out? - in a wonderful set of variations on the minuet from the first-act finale of Mozart’s Don Giovanni, though several other quotations from the same opera are wittily and cleverly found in the second half. Only the last work was written after Brahms had died in 1897, the Capriccio in 1900, the year of Herzogenberg’s own death (Elisabeth had died at 44 in 1892), a work which is more forward-thinking than hitherto. Its chromaticism is more developed as it varies a theme based on the initials of his friend ‘Der Freundin Frau Emma Engelmann-Brandes’ producing DFFEEB[flat] as the motto theme. Hints of Reger and Pfitzner point ahead into the 20th century.

Recorded in the Goldstones’ local church and producing an excellent, sumptuous sound, this is a marvellous disc. The music is a revelation, the playing of the highest class, the enjoyment unbounded. A gift accepted many years ago rather bewilderedly on my part from Anthony Goldstone when we collaborated on concertos by Goetz, Rimsky-Korsakov, Bruch and Shostakovich, I can now wear my Herzogenberg T-shirt with pride rather than as an under-garment.

Christopher Fifield 

TOCCATA Classics

 

 



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