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Hermann GOETZ (1840-1876)
Complete Piano Works
Genrebilder – klavierstücke, Op.13 (1870s) [14:58]
Waldmärchen (1863) [14:45]
Sonatinas (1871) Op.8 No.1 [12:17]: No.2 [9:52]
Alwinen-Polka (1859) [7:08]
Es ist bestimmt in Gottes Rath (Mendelssohn song transcription) [2:49]
Fantasie in D minor (1861) [5:37]
Scherzo in F major (1862) [6:25]
Kommt ein Vogel geflogen [0:38]
Overture to Act II of the opera Der Wilderspenstigen Zähmung [2:10]
Sonata movement in G major (1855) [5:32]
Lose Blätter – klavierstücke, Op.7 (1864-69) [33:06]
Christof Keymer (piano)
rec. February 2011, Kleiner Sendesaal, Landesfunkhaus, NDR Hannover
CPO 777 879-2 [61:58 + 55:37]

Hermann Goetz has just about clung on, more or less precariously, to a place in the catalogue, though his discography is still pretty meagre. The Concerto in B flat major, played beautifully by Hamish Milne on Hyperion CDA67791 made something of an impression on me – there’s a theme in the slow movement so gorgeous that it’s well-nigh impossible not to play it again and again. His music solely for piano has not fared as well. All the piano works here are apparently making their first-ever appearance on disc. Some of these pieces are, indeed, played straight from the manuscript – the Waldmärchen is even played from a photo-reproduction of the manuscript, which is now believed lost. So there’s been some archival work behind the scenes to bring these works to public performance in this way, and for that pianist Christof Keymer must take great credit. It sounds as if he had to contend with considerable legibility issues in transcribing this particular work – all the more creditably, as it is Goetz’s longest surviving solo piano piece.

These piano pieces date from the very late 1850s to the mid-1870s. They’re predominantly unaffected, unpretentious character pieces. The Genrebilder, Op.13 offers six delightful, very brief studies predicated strongly on Schumannesque lines – lyric, sensitive, and seemingly falling quite well under the fingers. Residual elements of Sturm und Drang seem to hang over the nature painting of Waldmärchen (1863) and whilst it can be somewhat repetitious the broad structure of the piece is pleasing, its transitions largely well-judged. It would be easy to dismiss the Op.8 Sonatines as mere teaching fodder but apart from their pedagogic technical demands there is much freshness to be found here. The second of the set is somewhat more involved and requires quicker fingers but Goetz makes sure to include a quotient of joie de vivre. This second of the set, with its genuinely good-natured finale really should be better known. Let’s hope Keymer’s expert performance will stimulate someone to take some interest.

The second of the two discs explores some very early pieces, none yet at all distinctive. The 1861 Fantasie sees Goetz struggling with the dangers of repetition, but the Scherzo – owing something to Schumann and Mendelssohn – is more assured. There’s a sliver of a folk song lasting 38 seconds and some student fragments, and there’s just the first movement exposition (completed by Keymer) of a sonata movement dating from 1855, when Goetz was about fifteen. The Lose Blätter offer more constructive pleasures; nine character studies written in the latter half of the 1860s and dedicated to Clara Schumann, who would have noted immediately the stylistic homage to her late husband. Thoughtful, elegant, dancing, dreamy, this set has romance and style and hints in the finale, Auf Wiedersehen!, of Chopin.

I’m glad to have had the opportunity to take in Goetz’s solo piano works in one go. That said some things here are real juvenilia, useful only for reasons of archival retrieval. If I were to compile a single disc it would focus on Lose Blätter, Genrebilder, Waldmärchen and the second of two sonatinas. Interested parties can be assured of good booklet notes and a clean, clear studio acoustic, and perhaps some pleasant surprises along the way.

Jonathan Woolf


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