Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Pfitzner, Hans. (1869-1949) Piano Quintet & Sextet.

From my collection.
Bought in 2011.
First listen: 18-2-2011.
Second listen: 12-4-2017.
Label: CPO.
Recording dates: March 2003 & May 2004.
Recording venue: SWR Stuttgart, Kammermusikstudio.
Recording engineer: Martin Vögele.
Running time: 68:29.
Classical relevance to me: Well worth having.

Works performed:
Quintet, opus 23 in C major for 2 violins, Viola, Cello & Piano.
Sextet, opus 55 in G minor for Clarinet, Violin, Viola, Cello, Double Bass, and Clarinet.

Works performed: 
Ensemble Ulf Hoelscher.

Now do not make the mistake that Pfitzner is a composer easy to listen to. When the Quintet was premiered in November 1908 it was not understood by critics and public alike, and even now it will take time before you see through the music to find it's worth. This genre has its traces of history in the form of Schumann, Brahms and a lot of others. But the way Pfitzner approaches it is vastly different from what was before.  It has a vital character is self assured and really says something about the musical skills of him. All stops are open and he draws constantly on unusual melodic ideas, and complicated harmonies. So it is by all means an adventure listening to the Quintet. There is structure as well as improvisation, and this results in some striking dissonances at times, but at the same time gives you moments of really great beauty. I sometimes thought that the work would disintegrate on spot, but somehow he holds it all together. As if he composes at random.
Now the Sextet is a turn around away from improvisation and dissonances, and is by all means a romantic work as by the book. There is a flow of ideas knitted together in a comprehensive way, and in this sextet he unleashes also a lot of ideas, but easy on the ear, and deeply affectionate. It's not a struggle at all to take this in. Its simply lighter in style and direction. Untroubled. A flight from the harsh reality of 1945, when he was staying in hospital for a broken arm. Half blind he wrote this sextet down as to forget what happened in Germany during the Nazi years.
The piece has a mastery and assuredness over it that makes it extremely rewarding, listening to it. A musical answer to all the destruction around him. As such this is a monumental work.
The performance is exemplary, and it is well recorded.







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