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Paul GRAENER (1872-1944)
Orchestral Works - Volume IV
Cello Concerto, op.78 (1927) [15:45]
Violin Concerto, op.104 (1937) [24:30]
Flute Concerto, op.116 (1943) [15:40]
Uladzimir Sinkevich (cello); Henry Raudales (violin); Christiane Dohn (flute)
Münchner Rundfunkorchester/Ulf Schirmer
rec. Studio 1 BR Munich, 2014
CPO 777 965-2 [56:20]

With this disc CPO keep steadfast faith in their Paul Graener project. Delivery of the first two volumes fell to the NDR Radiophilharmonie Hannover and the label's stalwart music director, Werner Andreas Albert (b.1935). The third volume found advocates in the Münchner Rundfunkorchester and Alun Francis (b.1943). Similarly, familiar and valued Oliver Triendl is the pianist in the sub-20 minute Piano Concerto of 1925. None of the three three-movement concertos that here make contrasting yet meet companions exceed 25 minutes in duration. We are not confronted with a composer who felt that he had to write to an Olympian scale. That said, we are contending with the musical legacy of an early joiner of the Nazi party. He rose to great heights in the Reichsmusikkammer. His music benefited from this in terms of performances, publication and press adulation. Between 1937 and 1940 Köthen put on annual festivals of Graener's music.

The Cello Concerto shows great determination and this verges on both anger and sultry romance. The cellist Paul Grümmer was its dedicatee and the soloist at the Berlin premiere in 1927. It's a work of keenly defined lines with a nicely gauged intertwining of woodwind and orchestral piano; the latter is fairly prominent in all movements. As a work it partners well with Korngold's single-movement Cello Concerto although the finale adds a dash of jollity which reminded me of an aspect of the tone poems of Siegfried Wagner, the Husarenlied Variations by Franz Schmidt and another set of Variations: Under the Spreading Chestnut Tree by Jaromir Weinberger. The Violin Concerto is the longest of the comparatively brief works here. It is built from high-flown oratory, a density of orchestral texture absent from the Cello Concerto, and a glowing intensity of solo line. The finale finds a flightier tread but tends to repetition of a rather effective if haughty idea. Graener strikes a more consistent and well-fitting style across the movements. At various times the Violin Concerto is reminiscent of the Brahms and Elgar works. It fairly flies along on flaming wings. The dedicatee is composer-conductor and Graener pupil, Karl Grimm. The soloist at the Schuricht-conducted premiere in Berlin was Wilhelm Stross. The Flute Concerto, gracious, lilting and on occasions In Alten Stil, recalls a meeting place between Grieg's Holberg and Ravel’s Le Tombeau de Couperin. Rather than being dedicated to a flautist this concerto is dedicated to the Austrian conductor, Rudolf Nilius. Nilius made the work's first recording in 1944 the year of the work's completion and of the composer's death. Sterling's Graener CD should not be forgotten.

The performances of soloists and orchestra combine eloquence and fervour. The recording is clear and honest if not spectacular. The liner notes, by Knut Andreas, are very thorough and readable. Will there be more Graener from CPO?

Rob Barnett



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