Fritz von BOSE (1865-1945)
Suite Nr. 2 op. 20 (pub. 1928) [18:17]
Drei Klavierstücke op. 10 (1913) [15:12]
Elegie op. 21/1 [4:59]
Thema und Variationen op. 17 (pub. 1922) [17:20]
Suite Nr. 1 op. 9 (pub. 1913) [21:35]
Alexandra Oehler (piano)
rec. MDR Leipzig, Springerstrasse 16-20 July, 12-14 November 2001
CPO 777 201-2 [78:20]
Fritz von Bose taught piano at the Leipzig Conservatory from 1838 to 1932, and the remarkable span of his meant he was old enough to have met Brahms and performed with Clara Schumann and Joseph Joachim. His teachers included Carl Reinecke, who apparently regarded him as his favourite student. It is hardly surprising then, to discover that von Bose’s work inhabits the world of conservative Romanticism rather than entering into any kind of avant-garde modernity, and he was known as the “Leipzig Brahms” for good reasons.
Thank heavens it isn’t a requirement of every composer working in the 20th century to be experimental or revolutionary, and this celebration of Fritz von Bose’s work show his voice to have been that of a gifted composer for his instrument. The Suite No.2 Op.20 is a middle period work, with trademark chromatic lines here and there, but with considerable melodic charm and what the booklet notes allude to as “Mendelssohnian lightness.” The Three Piano Pieces Op. 10 have plenty of that Brahmsian richness in the piano textures and harmonies, while the Elegy Op. 21/1 is a more introspective statement which has something of a whiff of romantic film music about it.
By far the most extended single movement here is the Theme and Variations Op.17, in which the composer flexes his creative and pianistic muscles furthest. A funereal theme with some nice scrunchy dissonances is followed by eleven variations which move inexorably through a variety of largely elegiac moods towards a darkly triumphal finale. The programme concludes with the Suite No.1 Op.9, whose individual movements are stylised dance forms sandwiched between an elegantly lyrical Prelude and a superbly dramatic closing Finale.
If you were wondering what happened to the legacy of Brahms in late 19th and early 20th century piano music then Fritz von Bose can supply some answers to your question. His pieces are relatively undemanding, but nonetheless enjoyable in a retrospective kind of way. The music is not effusively virtuosic or heavily Germanic in the “New German” Wagnerian sense, harking back as it does to the genial warmth of Mendelssohn and the pianistic palette of Brahms. If it seems strange and anachronistic to think of such music being created long after the musical world had been turned on its head by Schoenberg and Stravinsky, remember that von Bose inherited the conservative line of Carl Reinecke who inhabited similar early Romantic sensibilities at the same time that Mahler and Rachmaninov were flourishing. Alexandra Oehler’s performances of these works are very fine, and the MDR recording is highly serviceable if not particularly exciting.
Dominy Clements
Intriguing Brahmsian left-overs.