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Brahms and his Contemporaries - Vol. III
Giuseppe MARTUCCI (1856-1909)
Cello Sonata, Op. 52 (1880) [36:12]
Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
Six Songs for Cello and Piano (arr. Norbert Salter) [14:07]
Theodor KIRCHNER (1823-1903)
Eight Pieces for Cello and Piano, Op. 79 (1886) [22:19]
Johannes Moser (cello)
Paul Rivinius (piano)
rec. 14-17 January 2008, Kammermusikstudio, SWR Stuttgart, Germany. DDD
Experience Classicsonline

This is volume three in the Hänssler Classics series ‘Brahms and his Contemporariesperformed by Munich-born cellist Johannes Moser. I recently reviewed Moser in another release for Hänssler in the Saint-Saëns Complete Works for Cello and Orchestra. A ‘Record of the Month’, the Saint-Saëns will be one of my Records of the Year for 2009.

Together with the two Brahms cello sonatas as the keystone of this imaginative series we have already had cello works from his contemporaries Robert Fuchs and Alexander Zemlinsky on volume 1 on Hänssler 93.206 and Heinrich von Herzogenberg and Richard Strauss on volume 2 on Hänssler 93.207. This third volume comprises a rarely heard arrangement of six Brahms songs and an unknown score each from Giuseppe Martucci and Theodor Kirchner; both committed supporters of the great Hamburg-born composer. 

Giuseppe Martucci was born in the city of Capua in southern Italy. He excelled as a concert pianist, composer, conductor and as a teacher. A cosmopolitan, he conducted a broad range of music from various countries and was influential in introducing the operas of Wagner to Italy. Martucci met and championed the music of Brahms in Bologna in 1888 and later befriended Stanford, conducting his ‘Irish Symphony, again in Bologna. Martucci’s interest in the cello probably stems from days touring as accompanist to the renowned cellist Alfredo Piatti. The opening movement of his Op. 52 Sonata, Allegro giusto is of gentle and even temper. Several stormy episodes hardly disrupt the underlying warm Mediterranean feeling. The movement was rather overlong for its material. Upbeat and playful cavorting of the Scherzo is contrasted with the reflective and yearning quality of the Intermezzo marked Andantino flebile. Martucci provides sunny writing of an amiable and easy-going quality in the final Allegro. Once again this movement rather outstayed its welcome. 

Brahms’s arrangements for cello and piano are from a selection of his Lieder. They were prepared by Norbert Salter. Better known as an impresario Salter, a cellist, had played in the Hamburg Symphony Orchestra under the young Mahler. Brahms would probably have known of these Salter arrangements as they were first published during his lifetime in 1896 by Simrock. I have seen other arrangements of Brahms’s songs in transcriptions for cello and piano. For example Peter Hörr prepared cello and piano arrangements of Five Lieder from Brahms’s set of Eight Lieder, Op. 52 for MDG SceneA.

The opening arrangement of the set for cello and piano is the song Feldeinsamkeit (Lonely Fields), Op. 86/2, a Hermann Allmers setting from 1879. This is a romantic love-letter that reminded me of the Sammy Fain and Irving Kahal song ‘I’ll be seeing you’. Next is Wie Melodien zieht es (It runs, like melodies), Op.105/1 a popular Brahms song for low voice from 1886. This setting of a poem by Klaus Groth is of a mild and consoling character. Charming and sensitive, the Sapphische Ode (Sapphic Ode) (words: Hans Schmidt), Op. 94/4 is from 1883-4. 

The Wiegenlied (Lullaby), Op. 49/4 is the source of the much loved and universally known ‘Brahms Lullaby’. Originally published in 1868 as a one stanza song the Wiegenlied is a setting of a selection of verses drawn from Des Knaben Wunderhorn (The Youth’s Magic Horn); the collection of anonymous fifteenth century German folk poems. Six years later in 1874 Brahms added a second stanza using words written by Georg Scherer. I found the Robert Reinick setting Liebestreu (True love), Op. 3/1, from 1853, a yearning and expressive outpouring. The final setting Minnelied (Love-song), Op. 71/5, dating from 1877 and using verses from the poet Ludwig Hölty, is an amiable score with a winning charm.

Born in the German province of Saxony the pianist, organist and composer Theodor Kirchner first became acquainted with Brahms in 1856B when they became firm friends. With a prodigious compositional output of mainly miniature scores Kirchner is credited with having written over 1000 pieces for the piano.

Kirchner’s Eight Pieces for Cello and Piano, Op. 79 were published by Hofmeister in 1886. They proved so popular that Kirchner also prepared versions for violin or viola. Although intended to be played as a set they are sometimes used as encores. Kirchner may be an obscure name to many, however, these Eight Pieces are marvellous, high quality miniatures - real discoveries.

The opening piece Andante cantabile is sophisticated and serious. Miniature number two is a tripping Allegro scherzando of foot-tapping jollity. The Andantino is a passionate statement infused with pathos. The fourth, marked Allegro vivace is brisk and frolicking with a vibrant rhythm. The fifth, a Moderato cantabile is romantic music of poignant regret and the Allegro scherzando has an unsettling spontaneity infused with sensual lyricism. The beautiful penultimate piece marked Ruhig, ausdrucksvoll is haunting with a soul-searching quality. Marked Allegro ma non troppo the final piece has a fresh and agitated mood that evokes the quivering breeze and unsettled skies of Springtime.

This disc is a fine achievement for the two soloists. Moser has the innate ability to communicate the amiable personality of the music. This attribute blends perfectly with a rock-solid technique and the rich timbre of his cello. Playing splendidly pianist Paul Rivinius accompanies with sensitivity.

In the booklet notes there is an interesting interview with Moser. The amount of basic information given about the actual scores is very disappointing. It took me only a little effort to research basic biographical information, dates and title translations of the pieces. We are treated to pleasing sound quality, clear and well balanced from the Kammermusikstudio of SWR Stuttgart.

Michael Cookson

A Johannes Brahms: Sonatas for Violoncello and Piano
Sonata No.1 in G major for piano and violin, Op. 78 (transcribed for cello and piano by Peter Hörr) (1878-79)
‘Five Lieder’ from of Eight Lieder, Op. 52 (arranged for cello and piano by Peter Hörr)
Sonata No.1 in E minor for piano and cello, Op. 38 (1862-65)
Peter Hörr (cello) and Cora Irsen (piano)
Recording: Dec. 6-8, 2002 at Furstliche Reitbahn Bad Arolsen, Germany. DDD

B Johannes Brahms - A Guide to Research by Heather Anne Platt. Publ. Routledge (2003). ISBN: 0815338503 Pg. 57




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