Julius REUBKE (1834-1858)
Complete Works for Piano and Organ
Sonata for Piano in B flat minor
Scherzo for piano in D minor
Mazurka for piano in E major
Adagio for organ in E minor
Trio for organ in E flat major
Sonata for Organ in C minor "94th Psalm"
Paolo Marzocchi (piano - Steinway)
Luca Scandali (organ - Ladegast Organ)
rec. Imola. Italy, 13-14 December 2008 (piano); Dom, Schwerin, Germany, 9-10 July 2008 (organ)
CPO 777 467-2 [76:04]
Julius Reubke achieved a remarkable amount in his tragically short life. By far his most significant compositions are the Piano Sonata and the organ Sonata on the 94th Psalm, both found on this enterprising recording of the complete piano and organ works.
Born in Hausneindorf in 1834, the son of the organ builder Adolf Reubke, Julius later attended the conservatory in Berlin where he studied piano under Theodor Kullak. On the recommendation of Hans von Bülow, he moved to Weimar to study with Franz Liszt in 1856 and became one of his favourite pupils.
Alfred Brendel has given valuable advice about performing the works of Liszt. He talks of the need to forget the physical side of the keyboard and to create the illusion of structural inevitability from the frequently fragmentary structures. Like Liszt’s greatest works, such as the B minor Sonata and ‘Ad nos’ Fantasy and Fugue, Reubke’s sonatas are both truly a ‘phenomenon of expressiveness’. They make severe demands on the performer and listener, but in a recording such as this serve to highlight further the importance of Reubke’s musical contribution to the New German School.
The CD begins with a big-boned, muscular performance of the Sonata in B flat minor by pianist Paolo Marzocchi, barn-storming when needed but also suitably expressive in the central Andante sostenuto. One can almost imagine Reubke’s frustration at the limitations of the piano, wishing he were writing for a full orchestra. Despite some fine performances of late, including Anthony Hewitt’s on Divine Art, my preference still remains the recording by Till Fellner, originally released on Erato and later on Warner Classics budget Apex label. To my ears Fellner manages to achieve Brendel’s synthesis with greater success, fully integrating the technical challenges and retaining an almost improvisatory expressive freedom without sacrificing structural unity. This is playing of extreme sophistication matched by an excellent recording, more refined than Marzocchi’s.
Marzocchi’s performances of the Scherzo and Mazurka are both excellent, and I particularly liked his limpid, cantabile playing in the central section of the Scherzo. Both pieces are student works and owe a good deal to Chopin and Schumann, but are still highly impressive given the age of the composer.
In the organ works Luca Scandali plays the Ladegast organ in the cathedral of Schwerin, enabling us to hear the music on an ‘authentic’ instrument. Not only is this fascinating but Scandali also offers us impressive and stylish performances. The Adagio in E minor is dubbed a ‘world first recording’ and is certainly interesting to hear; it is the first version of what was subsequently to become the central section of the Sonata. The Trio is charming - not great music but well worth hearing.
The Sonata in C minor is given a dramatic and lyrical performance. If anything the instrument highlights the emotional turbulence of the programme, matched by the suitably spacious recording. The action noise could be intrusive for some but one soon adapts.