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Gerhard HAMM (1835-1904)
Gefunden - 6 Clavierstücke in Liedform, Op 18 [13:10]
Bagatellen, Op 12 [12:26]
Etude from Charakterstücke, Op 15 [6:47]
Karel HAMM (1876-1937)
Schetsen voor de Jeugd – 4 pieces [6:44]
Romanze [5:08]
Camiel Boomsma (piano)
Rec. March 2021, MotorMusic Studios, Belgium

Camiel Boomsma's rediscovery of these two composers, father and son, began when he was handed a number of scores by one of Hamm's descendents after a recital. Gerhard Hamm was born in Trier and after studying in Echternach, where he also held a position as organist, he took up residence in Venlo in the south of the Netherlands, contributing to the cultural life of the area. So much so that when he won an award in Amsterdam for composition he was welcomed back to Venlo with a torchlight parade. His son Karel studied at Cologne University but he returned to Venlo and became director of the Philharmonie as well as founding the music schools there and in Eindhoven. He also conducted the local choirs and wrote several works for male chorus.

Gerhard Hamm's Piano pieces in the form of songs are six songs without words very much in the style of Schumann, especially the second, Könnt es sein! with its melody over a gently pulsing accompaniment. The set has something of a story of love dreamed of and attained, the opening Als ich dich sah!, when I saw her, with its flowing accompaniment, questioning in the aforementioned Könnt es sein! and Frage, the slightly hesitant and gently urging fourth piece, to Nun bist du mein!, now you are mine with its bright, confident demeanour and lilting rhythms. His Bagatelles are in much the same mould; a bouncy Canzonette is followed by a flowing Scherzo whose opening shares a little of the canzonetta's falling phrases and has echoes of Brahms in its more dramatic central section. The Capriccio that comes next is certainly not akin to Brahms' passionate examples being more in the style of a baroque minuet and a rather uncertain and sad one at that. The last two Bagatelles are songs without words, the final one having a touch of the courtly dance about it.

Despite the title Karel Hamm's Schetsen voor de Jeugd – Childhood sketches - aren't as Schumann influenced as his father's works though they are otherwise in a similar vein. There is a Hungarian feel to the opening piece, ein regendag – a rainy day - while Angelus is a gentle lullaby with bell-like tones. The third piece, young learning, has a lovely flowing melody over a simple accompaniment; In the fourth piece I have not discovered what the title 't Schemeruurtje translates as but it has a tender mournfulness that suggests a lullaby at the very least and it ends tranquilly. His Romanze is a more extended work with definite hints of Schumann song in its main theme and though there is drama its passion is relatively restrained. This is also true for Gerhard Hamm's Etude that brings the recital to a close. It's technical aim seems to be playing a legato melody alongside a gently surging accompaniment and this continues throughout the piece with a more impassioned passage part way though.

This is all lovely music and if you are fond of Schumann and Mendelssohn you will find much to enjoy here; it is certainly melodious stuff. At a shade under 45 minutes the recital is fairly short and I found myself yearning for something that broke the mood more, something that let go. Even the faster pieces are relatively restrained in mood and the variety is within a rather narrow range. That said it is a good album to put on if this is the atmosphere you are after and I am always happy to hear works by unsung composers. Camiel Boomsma plays this music very sympathetically showing it off in its best light.

Rob Challinor

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