Paul GRAENER (1872-1944)
Works for Piano Trio
Suite, Op. 19 (1904) [8:23]
Chamber Music Poem, op. 20 (1906) [20:33]
Piano Trio, Op. 61 (1922) [20:22]
Theodor-Storm-Music, Op. 93 for baritone and piano trio (1930) [12:55]
Albrecht Pöhl (baritone), Hyperion-Trio (Hagen Schwarzrock (piano); Oliver Kipp (violin); Katerina Trohe (cello))
rec. 27-31 January 2010, Kleiner Sendesaal, NDR, Hannover. DDD
CPO 777 599-2 [62:42]
Graener falls squarely into the (not so) late romantic bracket.
His op. 19 suite bustles with Schubertian geniality. The Hyperion-Trio spare no tender ministration and some affecting playing pays dividends through caring attention to dynamics. Chamber Music Poem pitches the listener into a tempestuously romantic vortex of the type also heard most recently, in my case, from Thuille and Walford Davies. The music ultimately finds a tenderly enfolding heart’s ease. Of a similar duration but this time in four movements comes the Piano Trio which is broadly is a passionate idiom spanning Franck and early Fauré. Graener here sets about the big tragic-heroic themes and discomfiting episodes in life. The second movement feels like a bleached lament redolent of many post-Great War French chamber music pieces. Graener’s first son had died in 1904. His second was a battle casualty towards the end of the Great War and his daughter died at 29. Contrast in the shape of urbane charm can be heard in the chuckling and playful third movement. This shares something of the mindset of the Suite. The Theodor-Storm-Music sets Storm’s poem Forest and heath lie in exemplary and freshly imagined late romantic tones. There are more than few robustly crafted and jaggedly tragic emotions. Pöhl is suitably stern in delivery in words that not so much blend as juxtapose themes of German motherhood and death for the fatherland.
Graener is an intriguing character. His music may well have been hampered by his life story. He died in 1944 in Germany having been a Nazi Party member since 1933 and having risen to the very highest echelons of the Reichsmusikkammer. Born in Berlin his first substantial post was as music director at London’s Royal Theatre Haymarket (1898-1910). He returned successively to Vienna, Salzburg, Dresden, Munich and Berlin. He died in Salzburg having accrued a catalogue including more than 130 songs, orchestral works, an operetta, ten operas (one unfinished) and chamber music.
The Swedish label Sterling has recorded a selection of Graener’s orchestral music including the Wiener Symphonie. There is a Paul Graener website.
These chamber works show Graener as a serious composer in tune with his tragic and turbulently murderous times.
Rob Barnett 
A serious composer in tune with his tragic and turbulently murderous times.