Little known now, and apparently new to CMOTW, this creator of a substantial
corpus of chamber works was a devotee of Brahms (Brahms was rather more so
of Herzogenberg's wife) who had resisted the allure of Wagner and he was
a successful composer in his time. I found the string trio (1879) dull, its
steady rhythms chuntering on interminably with predictable modulations, but
the piano quartet (1892) is quite a different matter, and well worth knowing
- Brahms' own piano quartets, though regularly played, are variable in quality.
This one clearly derives its emotional power, which is considerable, from
the early death of Elizabeth Herzogenberg in January 1892. He took refuge
in composition and completed this quartet, which had been begun during her
illness and when his own health had deteriorated - he spent two years in
bed with rheumatic joint trouble, this costing him his post as Professor
of Composition in Berlin. It is in four movements and lasts half an hour,
generally serious, with a scherzo which 'convulses mournfully', and an elegiac
moderato finale, which ends quietly. It should appeal to the ageing members
of chamber music societies who like what they know and know what they like.
Performances and recording satisfactory; the string players, respectively
from Germany, Russia and Latvia, met in England at the Prussia Cove Festival
in 1993. This CD, rather short measure, complements one released on the centenary
of Herzogenberg's death CPO 999 710-2, with another string trio and piano
quartet and Legends op. 62 for cello and piano - I have enjoyed playing
some of his pleasant cello music with a friend.
Peter Grahame Woolf