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Georg TINTNER (1917-1999)
Violin Sonata (c1941-1944) [23.03] *
Variations on a Theme of Chopin (1934) [11:29]
Prelude, "Sehnsucht" (Longing) (c1938) [2:54]
Auf den tod eines Freundes (On the death of a Friend) (c1932-33) [3:17]
Piano Sonata in F minor (c1932-33) [10:13]
2 Fugues (1939): Fugue in G major [2:16]; Fugue in C minor [1:28]
Trauermusik (Musica Tragica) (1941) [6:23]
Helen Huang (piano); * Cho-Liang Lin (violin)
rec. Glenn Gould Studio, CBC, Toronto, Canada, 8-10 June 2005. DDD.
NAXOS 8.570258 [63:04]


Like other musicians active around his time such as Furtwängler, Klemperer, Victor de Sabata, Artur Schnabel or Wilhelm Kempff, Georg Tintner viewed composition as his major musical activity, whilst seeking sanctuary in performance as a means of earning a steady income.  Thankfully over recent years the compositions of artists such as these have become more widely known thanks in large part to several recordings becoming available. Budget labels including Arte Nova and Timpani have played a large part, Naxos/Marco Polo too, but also others such as Orfeo and Wergo, often championing a particular composer. This disc of world premiere recordings presents the case for Georg Tintner’s output, or at least a representative sample of it. Leaving his uncompleted late opera aside, he did write choral music – his Steht auf! was adopted by the Vienna Boys Choir when he was one of their members in the 1930s – and also a number of songs for female voice.

Just as he was a prodigious conductor from an early age – becoming assistant conductor at the Vienna State Opera at the age of 19 – many of the compositions here stem from the early to mid-period of his life. Even a cursory glance at the titles for many of the works tells you much about the man and his outlook. There is a marked belief in the supremacy of form. As in Furtwängler’s writing, Tintner’s belief in the sonata and the fugue reigns supreme, almost to the extent that form becomes an end inextricably linked with the survival of musical culture beyond the politically turbulent times they lived through. Klemperer, in his string quartets at least, does not project this feeling so strongly, whilst Schnabel and Kempff utilise form for lighter, though still well intentioned ends, on the whole. More so than with any of the others though one picks up on the thread of personal tragedy that accompanies Tintner’s life from his childhood as a Jew to his choice to take his own life when no longer able to express himself through music, either as composer or conductor, weakened by cancer.

So this is not joyous music per se, but in its tersely argued pages there is material of undeniable substance. The major works, in terms of length at least, would naturally make the most immediate impact on the listener. The violin sonata presents writing so assured for the violin that given Cho-Liang Lin’s undoubted commitment to it, it is almost a shame not to hear him in other works. Still, with its four movements taking turns at portraying the emotions such as love, defiance, sorrow and triumph, one is taken on quite an intense roller-coaster ride across a course of considerable highs and lows.

Helen Huang accompanies with much need confidence of voicing and fingering, which she brings to the other items on the disc too. Other highlights for me are the single movement piano sonata, which treats concision as a laudable compositional end in itself. Late Romantic in mould though its heady youthful mix of influences from Brahms via Chopin and Scriabin is noteworthy in one so young.  The Chopin variations perhaps indicate something of the young composer’s own pianistic prowess. The Prelude, Auf den tod eines Freundes and Trauermusik are the most poignant, underlining the nature of personal loss that affected Tintner so much. To my ears, the two Fugues remind of the importance of Bach as a bedrock of musical values above all else, and the loss that music suffers when it abandons quality of humanity and constancy at its core. Tintner saw serialism as the embodiment of this abandonment, and recognised that the twelve-tone experiment would be short lived.

Supported by brief but informative notes the excellent performances present Tintner as a serious and principled composer.

Evan Dickerson 



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