New CD

A new CD has been issued by Romantic Discoveries Recordings.

Piano Music of August Halm (1869-1929)
John Kersey, piano

August Halm
1. Prelude and Fugue in E minor 2. Pastorale and Andantino 3. Prelude and Fugue in C minor 4. Prelude and Fugue in F sharp minor 5. Praeludium and Invention. Adolf Schulz-Evler (1852-1905) 6. Echo de la Partita de J.S. Bach. Rudolph Niemann (1838-98) Concert Suite, op. 34: 7. Praeludium 8. Sarabande 9. Alla Gavotte 10. Bourrée

August Halm was the third son of Hermann Friedrich Halm and Charlotte Augusta (nee Kulmbach). His father was at that time pastor in Grossaltdorf. Halm reluctantly studied theology at the University of Tuebingen, combined with the study of composition. His teacher and promoter was Tuebingen’s director of academic music Emil Kauffmann. After an unenthusiastic beginning in ministry he sought two years of leave to study with Rheinberger, but found this uninspiring. He took work as a conductor and after the turn of the century he met Hermann Lietz , Gustav Wyneken and Paul Geheeb. From 1906 to 1910 and in the period from 1920 to 1929 he was active with Wyneken at his Free School in Wickersdorf near Saalfeld.

Halm was considered the most important music educator and spokesman of the musical youth movement, and worked to establish connexions between art and religion. His Free School developed ideas that would also be associated with Rudolf Steiner, such as child-centred, non-traditional learning in contrast to the regimented public school system. In its forest location and emphasis on nature (hiking movements that came to agitate for social reform were growing forces in the Germany of that time), it was also typical of the alternative living communities that Steiner’s Anthroposophy and indeed the wider Theosophical movement would generate in the early decades of the twentieth-century.

As a composer, Halm remained firmly in the model of Anton Bruckner, concentrating on the compositional techniques of the fugue and the sonata.  He did, however, establish a distinguished reputation as a music aesthetician as well as a writer on music. His writings, intended for the general public rather than other musicians, are characterized by a direct, obvious and clear language.

Those of Halm’s piano works collected on this disc show a clear development of Bachian language in a direction parallel to but distinct from Busoni’s new classicism. As a tonalist, Halm directed his attention away from modernism and towards breathing new life into Baroque forms and devices, in an attempt to recapture the vigour and purity of an idealized past. The result is music that is unusually individual while clearly showing its Teutonic influences in Bach, Beethoven and Bruckner. As in Reger’s world there is little concession to sensualism but instead an energy, clarity and logical purpose that propels the music with dynamic force and a structural cogency that is sometimes terse and rarely risks over-extension. The harmonic shifts, so much a part of Bruckner’s sound-world, have the capacity to pull the music sideways in an abrupt and striking fashion, but are deployed as part of a rigorous overall plan of the work in question. The E minor Prelude and Fugue, the longest in that genre, is a remarkable work making use of alternating themes and sections, and relying greatly on continuity of thought and line.

All that is known of Adolf (or sometimes Andrey) Schulz-Evler’s fifty or so compositions today is his popular showpiece Concert Arabesques on Strauss’s The Blue Danube, a fiendish Octave Etude (as yet unrecorded) and this little transcription of Bach, replete with huge chords and octaves in the manner of such transcribers as Stradal.

Rudolph Niemann is even less familiar, and this is the first recording of any of his music. He was the father of composers Walter and Gustav Adolph Niemann. The son of a local organist, he studied piano with Moscheles, travelling to Paris where he studied with Marmontel and Halevy, and then back to Berlin with Hans von Buelow. He undertook concert tours of Europe both as soloist and with the violinist Wilhelmj. From 1883 he taught at the Robert Fuchs Conservatoire in Wiesbaden. His Concert Suite continues the retrospective theme of this disc with its clear Baroque models and vigorous approach to reviving the old dance-forms.