Herzogenberg: Piano Quartet in E minor, Op. 75; String Trio in A, Op. 27/1

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COMPOSERS: Herzogenberg
LABELS: CPO
WORKS: Piano Quartet in E minor, Op. 75; String Trio in A, Op. 27/1
PERFORMER: Andreas Frölich (piano); Belcanto Strings
CATALOGUE NO: 999 765-2
Heinrich von Herzogenberg is one of those composers whose names tend to feature in the biographies of others. Yet he was a distinguished composer in his own right, a founder, with Bach’s biographer Philipp Spitta, of the Bach Verein of Leipzig, and one of the most admired composers in Berlin, where he taught. He cultivated a lifelong friendship with Brahms, who provides the model for the E minor Piano Quartet, composed in 1892.

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The work, fluid, confident and impassioned, sounds strangely familiar – I am sure I had not heard it before – its melodic ideas vivid and memorable. It resonates deeply in this excellent performance by Andreas Frölich and Belcanto Strings. The first movement balances the dramatic and the lyrical; the slow movement has a touching almost prayer-like poignancy (there are perhaps autobiographical significances, as the notes explain); the scherzo is dark edged, the finale a noble, reconciliatory music dedicated to his deceased wife. By contrast, the String Trio, composed in 1879, inhabits a world of more transparent light, easier emotions, showing Herzogenberg looking more, perhaps, to Mendelssohn and Schumann for his inspiration. A fascinating and pleasing revelation, warmly recorded. Stephen Pettitt