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.
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some 150 songs, three symphonies (plus five unpublished ones),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.
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.
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!
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.
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.