Hans von BÜLOW (1830-1894)
Ballade, Op. 11 (1854) [13:55]; Carnavale di Milano, Op. 21 (1871) [45:23]; La Certa, Op. 27 (1879) [5:44]; Marche héroïque, Op. 3 (1853) [14:23]
Mark Anderson (piano)
rec. 4-5 April. 1 August 2011, Wyastone Leys, Monmouth.
NIMBUS NI 5876 [79:30]
This is a lovely disc, and one that also plugs some important gaps in the repertoire. Hans von Bülow is known as an historical figure of some import, mainly as conductor. Piano pupil of Friedrich Wieck (Clara Schumann’s father) and Liszt, friend of Raff, teacher of Richard Strauss, Bülow was assisted by Wagner, no less, in his conducting career. He’s also known as the guy who lost his wife, Cosima, to Wagner.
The recital begins with the doleful Ballade, replete with Wagnerian chordal progressions. The piece becomes freer in discourse as it progresses, more quasi-improvised. There is a nice full-bodied sound, both from the pianist and from the recording. Anderson is a master of delineation, and there is some lovely balancing of strands - try the right-hand filigree around 3:40. Certainly it is a long piece, but Anderson somehow pulls it off. There are some distinctly Lisztian gestures around 6:40 - spread right-hand chords as part of a long cantabile line, for example. The impression is of superb pianism.
The Carnavale di Milano, subtitled “Ballabili e Intermezzi”, was inspired by the ballerina Elvira Salvioni, and the ten movements portray aspects of the dedicatee’s persona. There are ten dances and intermezzi, within which one (“Quadriglia”) is divided into six subsections. This piece lasts three-quarters of an hour, but is most appealing. The opening Polacca is Chopinesque and suave with some truly lovely shadings from Anderson. It is followed by a delightful Valse with a grand ending. This could be hammy if one is not careful - Anderson brings it off brilliantly. The Intermezzo is nicely exploratory - hesitant and teasing. If the six Quadriglia all seem much of a muchness, Anderson plays charmingly. The Mazurka is more interesting, more varied, and the Intermezzo lirico that follows is simply beautiful - it is subtitled “dancing sighs”. The Tarantella is properly virtuoso.
The short La Certa (The Lizard) is a Schubertian Impromptu that has been here gorgeously played and recorded. There is a wonderfully serene coda before the lizard scampers off. And to finish, the fun Marche héroïque on a theme by Erkel, from Hunyady László. Anderson teases the hiatuses in lines very pleasingly and there is an excellent drum - timpani roll - evocation. Great stuff, undemanding and pleasing.
There does not seem to be that much Bülow in the catalogues currently. It may be possible to find a disc on Marco Polo of Bülow’s transcriptions. This is played by Daniel Blumenthal on Marco Polo 8.223421. There’s also a disc on Oehms Classics OC 808 of songs by great conductors - Bruno Walter and Clemens Krauss being the others. Von Bülow’s tone poem Nirvana appears alongside orchestral works by Heger, Szell and Weingartner on Arabesque Z6752 (National Philharmonic of Lithuania/Leon Botstein).
Great stuff, undemanding and pleasing.