New CD

A new CD has been issued by Romantic Discoveries Recordings.

The Circle of Brahms, vol. 2
John Kersey, piano

Albert Dietrich (1829-1908): 6 Klavierstücke, op 6

Heinrich von Herzogenberg (1843-1900): 5 Klavierstücke, op. 25

Friedrich Gernsheim (1839-1916): 4 Klavierstücke, op. 61

This disc continues our earlier exploration of those composers who were part of Brahms’s circle (RDR46) with three sets of connected and contrasted piano pieces that show that the spiritual depth and intimate expression of Brahms’s piano music found immediate admirers, some of whom took the form in individual directions.

Albert Dietrich was not merely influenced by Brahms, but was one of the composer’s closest friends. He studied with Schumann from 1851 and then, in 1853, met Brahms and collaborated with him and Schumann on the “F-A-E Sonata” for Joachim. Thereafter, Dietrich was music director at the court of Oldenburg (1861-90) and did much to promote Brahms’ music. The quality of Dietrich’s own output is high and includes works in large-scale forms such as concerti for violin, cello and horn and a symphony dedicated to Brahms. In chamber music his output includes two piano trios as well as a small amount of music for solo piano. The set of piano pieces forming his op. 6 is distinctive and shows Dietrich at his most poetically inspired.

Heinrich von Herzogenberg studied composition under Dessoff and, influenced by his studies of Bach, became an ardent admirer of Brahms. He married one of Brahms’s piano pupils, and it is suggested by some that Brahms’s resentment of this union played a part in his generally curmudgeonly attitude towards Herzogenberg. In 1872, Herzogenberg moved to Leipzig where, along with Philip Spitta, he founded the Leipzig Bach-Verein, which did much to revive Bach’s cantatas. From 1885 he was professor of composition at the Berlin Hochschule für Musik, and in his last years, although a Roman Catholic, composed extensively for the Lutheran church. Herzogenberg’s works include several important pieces for solo piano and piano four hands. The five pieces that form his op. 25 are confident statements of his style; while this has an undeniable influence of Brahms, that influence does not overwhelm Herzogenberg’s own ideas and rather more cosmopolitan approach. The second, a martial Capriccio, is particularly striking.

Friedrich Gernsheim met Brahms later in his career, in 1868, and from that point onwards showed a notable Brahmsian influence in his works, which include four symphonies, concertos and much chamber music. Earlier on he had studied piano with Moscheles and spent five years in Paris, meeting Lalo, Rossini and Saint-Saëns among others. He taught at the conservatoires in Cologne and Berlin, and held conducting posts in Saarbrücken and Rotterdam. Gernsheim’s piano music is imaginative, stylistically effective and technically demanding. His Four Pieces, op. 61, are a notably contrasting set, with plenty of variety of mood and colour, and in the Legende that forms the third piece, a distinctive improvisatory feel.