Ludwig van Beethoven
1. Polonaise in C Major, Op. 89
2. Andante molto from Piano Sonata No. 8
3. 3 Bagatelles, Op. 1, No. 1. Allegretto
4. 2 Pieces, Op. 5, No. 1, Désir
5. 4 Preludes, Op. 37, No, 1 in B-Flat Minor
6. Romance sans paroles Op. 56
7. Au pays dévasté, Op. 155
Variations on a Well-known Tune
9. Var. 1 Skipping to School
10. Var. 2 Baby’s Bath
11. Var. 3 The President of Class 6x
12. Var. 4 Walk through Central Park
13. Var. 5 Big Brother and Baby Brother
14. Var. 6 A musical Neighbour
15. Var. 7 Story in Bed
16. Var. 8 Happy Dreams
17. Var. 9 Another Day – Procession
18. 5 Piano Pieces Op. 101, No. 3 Allegro non troppo
19. Play Piano Play “10 Pieces for Yuko”, No. 6 Presto possible
20. Oliver Twist, Oliver’s Sleepless Night
21. Jill All Alone in G Major
Enrique Soro Barriga
22. Andante appassionato Op. 2
23. 3 Studi da Concerto Op. 31 (1915, ed. 1929), No. 1 Vivacissimo
24. Smile-Improvisation on a Chaplin tune
25. Sadko, Cradle Song (arr. Victor Babin)
26. Fantasy on George Gershwin, ”The Man I Love” (arr. Igor Tsygankov)
HUSUM CD 2022 ©
by Jesper Buhl
When the pianist and founder of Raritäten der Klaviermusik im Schloss vor Husum (Rarities of Piano Music at Schloss vor Husum) Peter Froundjian took his seat for the first concert in August 1987, he could have had no inkling of the future for his vision, which has become one of the most celebrated of the world’s piano festivals.
The Schloss itself is the legacy of Duke Adolf I of Schleswig-Holstein-Gottorf, constructed in 1577-82 outside the city walls of Husum as a temporary residence for his stays on the west coast. For one week each August, the castle’s spacious Rittersaal becomes the venue for daily recitals on a wellconditioned Steinway. The festival has hosted 280 concerts and over a hundred pianists, and since 1987 Danacord has released an annual collection of highlights, no more than a taster of what the sold-out hall heard live.
As for Husum itself, a sleepy seaside resort for the rest of the year: local politicians have expressed surprise at the success of the festival, which brings the town into sudden annual prominence, and for that matter boosts the revenues of hotels, shops and restaurants. From Asia, America and all over Europe, pianophiles arrive in need of accommodation and refreshment. Which provincial town would not delight in welcoming such a crowd?
The festival’s unique atmosphere is down to Froundjian, who does not delegate administration to a team of artistic planners but settles on the programme in dialogue with each invited pianist. The festival does what it says on the tin. However unknown to the audience or unheard in the world’s temples of culture, these ‘Rarities of Piano Music’ are by no means second-class in terms of aesthetic merit; even pieces by famous composers may be obscured by the likes of the Moonlight Sonata and Clair de lune.
When Covid-19 necessitated the cancellation of the 2021 festival, Froundjian responded imaginatively with a weekend festival in June 2022, cast in the mould of the ‘Six Petits Concerts’ staged annually by Charles-Valentin Alkan in Paris during the 1870s. By way of tribute to Alkan, each of the six pianists engaged for the weekend performed a piece by the composer who defined virtuoso pianism in the generation after Liszt (Froundjian has never previously made such an artistic intervention). Danacord issued an album of Alkan-themed highlights in time for the main event in August 2022, and to an enthusiastic response – even if Husum’s town hall failed to join in the chorus of praise (or for that matter lend it more than token financial support).
With the August 2022 festival finally back to full strength, and post-concert gatherings at the Künstlercafé in downtown Husum in full swing once more, the stage was set fair. What could possibly go wrong? Just a matter of hours before the Monday evening concert, Froundjian was drinking coffee with the writer and Godowsky specialist Jeremy Nicholas, who had curated an exhibition of Godowsky exotica up at the Schloss. Froundjian’s phone rang with bad news and a cancellation. How to replace a pianist engaged specifically for novelties at the last minute? Luckily Matthias Kirschnereit had been engaged for Wednesday’s concert; he lives in nearby Hamburg, and he drove up to save the day, giving portions of his scheduled concert alongside other pieces in his repertoire.
Even the Beethoven catalogue still holds some surprises. One such is the Polonaise in C composed in 1814 and dedicated to the Russian Empress Elizabeth Alexeievna. There are rhythmic echoes of the alla polacca finale of the Triple Concerto, while the harmony of the central section, tending towards A major, may have supplied Chopin with inspiration for his celebrated ‘Heroic’ Polonaise Op.53.
The Ukrainian capital of Kyiv was the birthplace of Vadym Kholodenko, who began his recital with another Beethoven rarity. His account of the Sonata in E flat D568 by Schubert then pointed up connections between the older and younger Viennese composers. Posthumously published as Op. posth. 122, the Sonata is a revision and completion from 1826 of a D flat major Sonata composed in June 1817. Cast in a sombre G minor, the slow second movement seems to mirror the unstable aspects of Schubert’s personality with its desolate landscape and isolated cries, like one of the Moments musicaux in its own right.
Schubert in valedictory mood has been an inspiration for many post-Soviet composers, none to more haunting effect than for Valentin Silvestrov. The Kyiv-born Silvestrov has written 13 Bagatelles, and Kholodenko played the first of them as an exquisite encore, and a prayer for peace. Fragments of Viennese Classicism surface in his melodies as fleeting inspirations or ear-worms; the composer himself has recorded Bagatelle I, and other pianists to do so include Hélène Grimaud, but none of them seem to rival the feather-light touch and deep affection of Kholodenko’s playing.
The sound-world of Alexander Scriabin evolved from youthful echoes of Chopin into an intensely chromatic, intoxicating language all his own. Already in the third of his ten sonatas, presented in his recital by Jean-Paul Gasparian, the harmonies are beginning to dissolve along with formal conventions. However mystical or dissonant his later music became, it often retained a tenderness which is palpable in the Désir Op.57 No.1, and the sad, pensive B minor Prélude Op.37 No.1. However brief in duration, each piece captures the essence of Scriabin.
Rarities of Piano Music has kept pace with steadily growing interest in the music of women composers, represented here by Mel Bonis and Cécile Chaminade.
Nicolas Stavy returned to Husum after his successful 2021 concert. He presented the Romance sans paroles Op.56 of Bonis alongside a trio of Romances sans paroles by Fauré. Both sets emulate the example of Mendelssohn with a broadly flowing right-hand melody and a finely woven accompaniment shared between the hands. Kolja Lessing is another regular visitor; in 2022 he gave a cornucopia of lesser-known Romantic piano works from Czerny to Gernsheim and Blanchet to Chaminade. Her desolate tone-picture Au pays dévasté Op.155 pays tribute to the fallen in the First World War; utterly foreign in mood to the salon miniatures which made her name.
Lessing sent his audience out smiling with the Variations on a Well-Known Tune by Ignace Strasfogel, a pupil of Franz Schreker in the 1920s in Berlin, presented here for the first time on CD. Strasfogel was also on the programme (and present in person) when Lessing made his debut at the festival in 1991. The ‘well-known tune’ in question is the American song Home on the Range. According to Lessing: ‘Strasfogel wrote these variations for his six-year old son Ian in March 1946. Strasfogel had been a US citizen since 1937, and the tune pays tribute to his new homeland. Each variation is a portrait of family life. Variation 5 makes a tongue-incheek reference to Goldenberg and Schmuyle from Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition; Variation 6 does a stylish cabaret turn. Variation 8 acknowledges Hindemith’s Ludus Tonalis and the final variation is a mighty passacaglia which would not have been out of place in the Baroque era.”
On Sunday morning, the writer and piano specialist Farhan Malik gave a lecture on the performing practice of 19th century pianists. Historic recordings demonstrated the lost art of rubato. Malik’s wife Nadejda Vlaeva is a frequent guest at the festival “Rarities of Piano Music”, and with their daughter they make a popular trio at the festival’s social events. Vlaeva has often promoted her fellow Bulgarian Pancho Vladigerov; on this occasion she
also presented the Klavierstück Op.101 No.3 by Philipp Scharwenka, elder brother of the better known Franz Xaver Scharwenka. Philipp’s ‘ultraRomantic’ style has been revived during the last 20 years, thanks not least to his idiomatic piano writing, full of character and expressive contrasts. This particular Allegro non troppo belongs to the world of Schumann, performed here with Vlaeva’s customary elegance and bravura.
Always generous with encores, Vlaeva got the pulse racing with a movement from Play Piano Play by Friedrich Gulda, dedicated to his second wife Yuko Wakiyama. The collection encourages classically trained pianists (as Gulda was himself) to loosen up and learn techniques of jazz and improvisation, towards the goal of becoming, as Gulda saw it, a fully rounded musician. The sixth piece is a toccata with a ‘stride piano’ left-hand part beneath improvised right-hand figurations.
In 2022, Paul Guinery was making his debut at the Festival. Trained as a pianist at the Royal College of Music, he has become better known in the UK as a broadcaster and a specialist on the music of Delius. Many names on his programme of Anglo-Irish composers were new even to seasoned attendees of the festival: the likes of Iris Taylor, Harry Engleman and Madeleine Dring. On slightly more familiar ground, he gave an excerpt from the score written by Arnold Bax for the 1948 movie version of Oliver Twist directed by David Lean. In this piece, Bax paints the sadness of the boy Oliver with exquisite harmonies.
Billy Mayerl was a leading figure in British popular music during the interwar wars. Jill All Alone is one of his last pieces, dedicated to his wife (and sometime duet partner) Jill. In the gentle, waltz-like theme and its sensitive harmonisation we may hear a melancholy which came to pass with Mayerl’s death four years later.
Enrique Soro Barriga was born in 1884, in the Chilean city of Concepión, as the son of an Italian composer. Having received instruction in piano and theory from his father, Soro studied composition at the Seminario de Concepcıón, and then won a state scholarship to further his studies in Milan. He returned to his native country and played an instrumental role in nurturing a tradition of classical music in Chile, becoming the director of the conservatoire in Santiago. Given as an encore by Antonio Pompa-Baldi, the Andante Appassionato Op.2 has an extraordinary intimate force and an unusual history. Soro wrote it for orchestra at the age of 17 while studying in Europe, and then arranged it for the Quatuor Geloso in Paris. He subsequently produced versions for piano quartet, solo piano (1909), chamber orchestra, and then a final revision for piano, shortly before his death in 1954.
Riccardo Pick-Mangiagalli is a Czech-born, Milanese composer mostly known to pianophiles for his light-hearted La Danse d’Olaf which featured on the 2011 Rarities of Piano Music album. His Studio da concerto Op.31 No.1 is one of three concert studies from 1915 (revised in 1929): a Vivacissimo tour-de-force in right-hand 6/8 sequences with staccato punctuations of the harmonic structure.
Few modern pianists have in their armoury the art of improvisation, and fewer still the mastery of Antonio Pompa-Baldi. His Smile-Improvisations on a Chaplin tune draws its inspiration from the 1936 movie Modern Times: a melody later arranged for singers such as Judy Garland and Barbara Streisand. Pompa-Baldi retains the feel of both the melody and the movie within an intricate form.
The Berlinskaya/Ancelle Duo – a married couple who started out as teacher and student – were welcome return guests at the 2022 Festival. They began their recital with a sequence of arrangements by Victor Babin, who is himself part of a husband-and-wife duo, with his spouse Vitya Vronsky. The Cradle
Song from Sadko by Rimsky-Korsakov shows how imaginatively Babin divides the dreamy, rocking melody between the parts, translating the composer’s orchestral imagination so successfully that the piece sounds entirely original.
Better known to the Husum audience than to even well-read music lovers at large is the name of Alexander Tsfasman. Born in Odesa and a fellow member of Felix Blumenfeld’s piano class alongside Vladimir Horowitz, Tsfasman developed his own, jazz-inflected style of performance and composition. His Fantasy on ‘The Man I Love’ arose from his obsession with the music of Gershwin, scores of which he diligently tracked down in Soviet Russia. Igor Tsyganov transcribed the fantasy from a recording and arranged it for two pianos.