Friday, July 7, 2017

Hans Pfitzner - Piano Trios (Robert Schumann Trio)


Information

Composer: Hans Pfitzner
  1. Piano Trio in F major, Op. 8: I. Kräftig und feurig, nicht zu schnell
  2. Piano Trio in F major, Op. 8: II. Langsam, nicht schleppen
  3. Piano Trio in F major, Op. 8: III. Mässige schnell, etwas frei im Vortrag
  4. Piano Trio in F major, Op. 8: IV. Rasch und wild
  5. Piano Trio in B flat major: I. Allegro molto
  6. Piano Trio in B flat major: II. Romanze. Andante
  7. Piano Trio in B flat major: III. Scherzo. Ziemlich schnell

Robert Schumann Trio
Kee Hülsmann, violin
Marien van Staalen, cello
Josef De Beenhouwer, piano

Date: 2001
Label: cpo


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Review

A piano trio by Pfitzner may seem a daunting prospect, especially when the piece in question lasts for three-quarters of an hour (Op. 8): perhaps this was the reasoning behind CPO's 'special price' for this product. That said, it is difficult to imagine anyone with a penchant for late-Romantic music being disappointed by this release.

Chamber music was part of the entire gamut of Pfitzner's creative life - his Op. 1 was his Cello Sonata in F sharp minor. The major work on this disc, the Piano Trio in F, Op. 8, dates from 1896; it is the longest composition of his early period. Pfitzner's cup positively overflows with invention. One of his compositional credos was that one idea naturally gives birth to another, and certainly there is a momentum of ideas which makes the eight-minute first movement ('Kräftig und feurig, nicht zu schnell') so compelling. This is in fact true of both of the outer movements (the last movement, 'Rasch und wild', is quite invigorating to listen to).

The very opening shows where Pfitzner's 'difficult' reputation comes from. The texture he creates is best described as 'large', full of late-Romantic sweep. But this just emphasises the contrasts Pfitzner is able to call on: try the beautifully calm patch around 5'50, as fragments are exchanged between instruments.

All three members of the Robert Schumann Trio get chances to shine. Perhaps it is Kees Hülsmann's sweet-toned violin which should come in for special mention. His sound suits the lyrical basis of this music and he excels himself in the slow movement, which moves to a tender, yet impassioned, climax.

The B flat Piano Trio, which dates from 1886, a full decade earlier, is much less demanding fare. The author of the booklet notes, Hans Rectanus, claims to have reconstructed and published the trio from material in the Austrian National Library in Vienna and the Bavarian State Library (Munich).

This is the music of youth. The booklet notes accuse the first movement of being 'a little long', something the Robert Schumann Trio set out to disprove: and what a convincing case they make! The second movement is similarly fresh, inspiring the booklet note writer to purple prose. The Romanze 'could be a scene with two lovers. "She" (violin) and "he" (cello) flirt with one another, let go, and finally come to rest in perfect happiness'. Again however, Rectanus feels the third movement Scherzo makes a 'somewhat clumsy impression'. Actually, it is great fun, and the Trio is really affecting. Well worth exploring.

-- Colin ClarkeMusicWeb International

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Hans Pfitzner (5 May 1869 – 22 May 1949) was a German composer and self-described anti-modernist. His best known work is the post-Romantic opera Palestrina, loosely based on the life of the sixteenth-century composer Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina. Pfitzner's music, including pieces in all the major genres except the symphonic poem, was respected by contemporaries such as Gustav Mahler and Richard Strauss. His works combine Romantic and Late Romantic elements with extended thematic development, atmospheric music drama, and the intimacy of chamber music. Pfitzner's students included musicians such as Otto Klemperer, Charles Münch and Carl Orff.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hans_Pfitzner

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The Dutch violinist Kees Hülsmann, the Dutch cellist Marien van Staalen and the Belgium pianist Josef De Beenhouwer have made music together for many years now. But it was only in 1998 that they decided formally to become a trio. They styled themselves the Robert Schumann Trio and have appeared under that name in concerts ever since. Beenhouwer is professor at the Royal Flemish Conservatory of Antwerp, while Hülsmann is professor at the Royal Conservatory of The Hague, and Staalen teaches a cello class as well as conducting at the Rotterdam Conservatory and at the Royal Conservatory of The Hague. Hülsmann plays a splendid 1720 Stradivarius violin, and Staalen plays  an 1728 Italian cello, made by David Tecchler.

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