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Friedrich KUHLAU (1786–1832)
Piano Sonata in A, op.59/1 (1824) [7:03]
Piano Sonata in F, op.59/2 (1824) [11:10]
Piano Sonata in C, op.59/3 (1824) [10:00]
Piano Sonatina in C, op.20/1 (1820) [7:45]
Piano Sonatina in G, op.20/2 (1820) [11:13]
Piano Sonatina in F, op.20/3 (1820) [11:32]
Jenö Jandó (piano)
rec. 21 – 25 March 2007, Phoenix Studio, Diósd, Hungary DDD
NAXOS 8.570709 [59:07]

 

Experience Classicsonline


Kuhlau’s
father was an army musician, his grandfather was an oboist and his uncle an organist, so the chances of young Friedrich becoming a musician were pretty strong! Although his family was poor there was money to pay for piano lessons, which he started whilst living in Lüneburg, at which time he commenced composition. Kuhlau started his career as a pianist in 1804 in Hamburg, and stayed there until 1820, when the city was occupied by Napolean. At this time he moved to Copenhagen, living under a pseudonym, in order to avoid consription into the Napoleonic Army, and three years later took Danish citizenship, being appointed Court Musician in 1814. As a performer he introduced many of Beethoven’s works to Denmark (Kuhlau and Beethoven were friends, the older composer’s music exerting a strong influence on Kuhlau) and composed the music for a Royal wedding, Elverhøj (Elves' Hill), based on the play by Johan Ludvig Heiberg which incorporates folk-tunes, and the national hymn, and is generally regarded as the Danish national opera. He wrote a vast amount of music, over 200 published opus numbers, and when his house burned down it destroyed all his unpublished manuscripts, which included a 2nd Piano Concerto. This had an adverse effect on his health and he died the following year. He wrote many works for flute and because of these he was nicknamed "the Beethoven of the flute" during his lifetime. 

These six works were obviously written either for teaching purposes or for the drawing room – certainly Kuhlau was aiming for the amateur market – and their forms are easy to follow whilst the writing is miles away from the highly virtuosic piano music being written at that time. They are all laid out gracefully for the keyboard, and would easily fit into any recital where they would give an audience a moment of respite between meatier pieces. There’s plenty  of good humour in the fast movements – I especially enjoyed the cod Hungarian episode in the rondo finale of the Sonatina, op.20/1 – but Kuhlau doesn’t forget that we also need some seriousness and so the opening movement of the following work is more restrained, but he still keeps smiling. 

There’s nothing profound here, indeed the later set of pieces have only two movements, no slow movement, so it’s obvious that Kuhlau was aiming for entertainment and not depth. 

Jandó is totally at home in this music, never trying to inflate the little pieces into something grander, he understands the gentle, understated quality of the work. These are very enjoyable works, and, despite the slight character of the works, you will want to return to them for they are very charming and entertaining. After years of only ever hearing Elverhøj – delightful  as that piece is – it’s good to finally get to hear something else by this composer, who, although not in the front rank of his time, had something to say and the means with which to say it. 

The recording is up to Naxos’s usual high standards and the notes are very good.

It’s always interesting to take a trip off the well beaten path, and a stroll in the company of Mr Kuhlau is an hour well spent.

Bob Briggs 





 


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