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Gustav JENNER (1865-1920)
Piano Works
Balladen [17:31]
Theme and Variations [13:38]
Stimmungen (8) [23:54]
Unmilitärisches [5:16]
Solvejg Henkhaus (piano)
rec. 2017, Frankfurt
CPO 555 306-2 [60:28]

The young Jenner was kindly thought of and admired by Brahms; so much so that the elder composer encouraged him to move to Vienna. He became Brahms’ only composition pupil. CPO tell us that Jenner considered his connection with Brahms to be a “decisive stroke of luck” in his life. Jenner’s academic career centred on the city of Marburg and that is where the Hessian Music Archive holds his manuscripts to this day. At that site you can also view a fine collection of photographs of Jenner and Brahms, together and separately. Jenner recordings are not numerous but CPO have a chamber music collection including the three string quartets and two other substantial works (review).

The big, fluent and commanding Ballades (probably dating from 1890s) are written in a kindly style anchored in Brahmsian waters. Commanding they may be, but their tempests are moderate and have an honest smiling aspect. They stand back from Brahms’ more sempiternal furies. One senses Jenner’s friendly arm around the listener’s shoulders. Much the same can be said of the nicely crafted Theme and Variations. This work was written between 1899 and 1919. One can imagine that the sequence was added to and perhaps reordered as the years passed. Like the other pieces on this disc the music remained in manuscript. The eight Stimmungen (or Sustained Moods) are undated although two appear to date from 1900-1902. They are: a) Lively; b) Agitato; c) Quite fast; d) Lively; e) Intimately moved, ‘Farewell’; f) Slowly and very expressively, ‘Tears’; g) Quite slowly, ‘Wehmut’; and h) Slow. These showcase Solvejg Henkhaus’s sensitive and articulate pianism: alert to nuance and the time and tide of variegated emotions. ‘Tears ‘is done with great feeling while avoiding tipping into lachrymose sentimentality. Unmilitärisches is an affecting and intriguingly titled little work.

The liner notes in German and English are by Uwe Henkhaus. They support what is a most gentle and appositely recorded recital where even the storms do not intimidate and the smiles are affectionate without being in the least insipid.

Rob Barnett

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