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Albert DIETRICH (1829-1908)
Sonata for Piano and Cello Op.15 [23:04]
Einleitung und Romanze Op. 27 [7:43]
Sechs Klavierstücke Op. 6 [18:45]
Vier Klavierstücke Op. 2 [23:46]
Alexander Will (cello), Friedrich Thomas (piano)
rec. Studio Gärtnerstraße, Berlin, 2012 (Opp. 15 & 27), Studio Britz, Berlin, 2014 (Opp. 2 & 6)
CPO 555108-2 [64:40]

The booklet notes begin with quoting Wilhelm Altmann’s description of the German composer Albert Dietrich as “unjustly consigned to oblivion”, which in a way is a just appraisal of the composer. Indeed, if he had not composed the first movement of the famous FAE Sonata with Schumann and Brahms, he would probably be no more than a musical footnote. That being said, apart from Brahms’s contribution, the other three movements are virtually forgotten as well. A look through the pages of a certain online retailer shows that there is very little of Dietrich’s music available.

Dietrich was born in Golk near Meissen and studied with Schumann in Dusseldorf, where he lodged with Robert and Clara. The situation grew into a friendship and introduction to the Schumann’s inner circle. It is for this reason that Dietrich has come to be seen, and dismissed as a mere acolyte of Schumann, with his music confined to oblivion. This does the composer an injustice, especially when one takes into account his contribution to the musical world in Germany during the second half of the nineteenth century.

I have enjoyed a great deal CPOs another release, Dietrich’s orchestral music (777 314-2). There, the music is more original, but with the Klavierstücke Op. 2 Robert Schumann’s pen is never too far away. Listen to In mässigem Wanderschritt or the final piece Sehr ruhig, ausdrucksvall. One can be forgiven for thinking them discarded pieces from many of Dietrich’s landlords piano works—not that this is a bad thing. The same can be said of Op. 6, although here there is more of a stylistic and thematic influence rather than a straight copy of the master’s style. Ziemlich langsam and Mässig, im Menuettempo exemplify this, while other pieces show a leaning more towards Brahms and Liszt.

Where this disc and Dietrich’s own style shine through is in the two works for cello and piano. The Op. 15 Sonata is a good example of the composer’s own romantic ideal. The work is cast in four movements, but unusually set in a slow-fast-slow-fast scheme. The opening Moderato espressivo, non troppo lento is a tour de force of cello writing, with the Sonata as a whole overshadowing any of Schumann’s compositions for cello and piano. The Einleitung und Romanze is in fact a chamber version of that for Horn and Orchestra that is included on the orchestral disc. A slow-paced piece lasting nearly eight minutes, this is again a deeply romantic work and one that clearly shows Dietrich’s mastery of the instrument.

The playing of Alexander Will and Friedrich Thomas is excellent throughout, as are the recorded sound and the booklet notes, making this a most interesting and valuable release.

Stuart Sillitoe

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