This was first issued several years ago as volume one of Cameo Classics’ pioneering series called ‘Music of Nineteenth Century Jewish German Composers’. The series presented première recordings of many works, and this inaugural release was no different, given that a raft of piano pieces composed by Ignaz Brüll was brought to public attention.
Much admired and liked by his contemporaries he was born in the Moravian manufacturing town of Prossnitz, now called Prostějov in the Czech Republic, quite near Olomouc. When he was a child his family moved to the Imperial capital of Vienna where he had many successes. He was a long-standing friend of Brahms and indeed was chosen to lead Brahms’s funeral procession.
Though he wrote numerous large-scale works including operas, this disc concentrates on his penchant for intimate and genial small-scale piano composition. Unfortunately there’s nothing at all in the notes about the first work, the Op.45 set which includes the Theme with Variations, the Breton Melody and the Ballad. The ethos of the first named is Classical-cum-Romantic with fugal development neatly threaded through the variations. The music is confidently handled and played with assurance. At nearly seven minutes this is the longest single movement in the programme which suggests that these are largely piquant miniatures, dance studies, character pieces and Schumannesque charmers. The Breton Melody has echoes of the Variations melodically, though here we find a gently melancholic curve to the writing. The Ballad is something of an Academic Festival Overture in miniature, for the piano. It’s certainly on the vivacious and exultant side, strikingly so in places. Op.51 was composed around 1886 and contrasts a rippling, effective Berceuse with a vibrant Spanish Dance.
The Op.11 set is a little romantic character collection with a Romance, Impromptu, Mazurka and Berceuse. Of the four perhaps the mildly tempestuous Mazurka is the most captivating with its clever leaps and sense of vitality. This leaves Op.72, with eight pieces bearing generic titles such as Slumber Song, In the Mill and the Waltz. All are brief – only one breaches three minutes – and none outstays its welcome. The lightly mocking March is especially pleasing, and even better is the delightfully verdant In the Forest, brief and leafy.
Janet Olney plays the selection with obvious dedication and affection and was pretty well recorded. Most enjoyable.
Previous review: Stephen Vasta
Theme and Variations [6.51]
Breton Melody [2.29]
Spanish Dance [1.47]
Slumber Song [1.41]
In the Forest [1.46]
In the Mill [3.12]