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Eduard ERDMANN (1896-1958)
Symphony No. 4, Op. 20 (1951) [34:37]
Monogramme (Eine kleine Serenade für Orchester), Op. 22 (1955) [11:13]
Ständchen für kleines Orchester, Op. 16 (1930) [15:47]
Brandenburgisches Staatsorchester Frankfurt /Israel Yinon
rec. Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach Konzerthalle, Frankfurt, 5-9 April 2005.
CPO 777 175-2 [61:57]

Eduard Erdmann was one of the most respected pianists of his generation, and was a tireless advocate of new music. With a circle of friends that included the likes of Alma Mahler, Ernst Krenek and Artur Schnabel, it is evident that Erdmann traveled in an elite circle of musicians, and had a standing equal to any major artist of his day. A composer and a scholar, his music is just now receiving some richly deserved recognition, having fallen by the wayside for the last fifty or so years. He served in at least three important academic positions, including professorships at the Cologne and Hamburg Academies of Music.

The era of the compact disc and the digital music file have produced a mass of recordings that no one listener could hope to enjoy in two lifetimes, much less in the four score and seven with which we each have to work. This embarrassment of riches leaves us with mountains of discs through which to wade, and not nearly enough time to discover it all.

This is a disc worth your time to discover. Erdmann the composer works in traditional media with a fresh, original and sometimes dissonant style and harmonic language. The symphony, his last from 1951 is more compact than Mahler, less angular than Shostakovich and less romantic than Weingartner. Lush in texture, yet not syrupy, this is music whose beauty lies in its wintry soundscape. It is not the stuff of sweeping, singable melodies, and yet it is not without melodic interest. Neither is it the sort of episodic paint splashing that we get from many of today’s composers. It is the canvas of a dark impressionist rather than that of a musical Jackson Pollock. Taut and strong, it is music that requires you to listen, and doesn’t let you down for your effort.

Monogramme, which was the composer’s final work, is no less harmonically challenging than the symphony of four years before, but it is far more playful and far less serious. Its opening movement is wispy and ethereal, energetic and noisy with dissonance and whirling string and wind figures. The middle movement is by turns serene and even melodic and busy with flourishing wind figures. It ends with a swish and a bang.

The Serenade for Small Orchestra is, as its title would imply, much more jolly and playful than the other works. Yet again, Erdmann never indulges in romanticism or overt melody-making. His is a musical language that although not particularly challenging to twenty-first century ears, must have set a few teeth on edge in its day. His sounds are often biting and the rhythmic figures are unsteady and biting in character.

CPO have a knack for bringing out recordings of fascinating music by some of Europe’s lesser known orchestras. The Frankfurters play with an excellent sense of ensemble, and employ some extremely fine woodwind players who get a good workout in this music. Israel Yinon is a rhythmically aggressive conductor and he succeeds quite admirably in finding balance in this complex musical tapestry. His attention to detail is evident in the subtle shadings of the solo passages, and the broad dynamic scope that he gets from his players. Yet, balance is again the key word. The loudest passages, while thrilling, are always bearable, and the soft sections are never inaudible.

CPO displays some carelessness in presentation though, with an annoyingly mismatched documentation between the back cover and the booklet. The movement numbers don’t align. This kind of error occurs with maddening frequency in CD releases and is inexcusable, especially at CPO’s price point.

Nonetheless, this is a disc worth owning.

Kevin Sutton



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