collectors will know Erdmann’s name very well. Tahra is a
label that has issued some of his performances over the years
and the results make for enlightening, sometimes combative
listening. But he also composed. As befits the holder of
a number of prestigious academic positions and one of a group
of similarly creative musician friends – Schnabel was another
pianist-composer colleague – he found composition a necessary
channel for his imagination.
went into a kind of internal exile during the Second World
War. He resigned a Cologne professorship in 1935 in protest
at the Nazis and as a result his pre-War works were not performed.
He concentrated therefore on his concert engagements. He
resumed serious composition after the war finishing the last
of his four symphonies in 1951. Other works followed but
nothing as broad or ambitious in span.
Symphony has influences from Stravinsky and Berg, much less
so from Hindemith. It hardly qualifies as neo-classical,
rather it’s tonal but acceptably modern in perspective. Erdmann
makes great play of individual voices, often pitting piping
winds against slow moving brass and bass blocks and then
withdrawing to a single voice, say the clarinet. The stately,
rather Bergian-sounding fugato in the first movement once
again winnows to single voices. In this respect Erdmann seems
to be enacting a curious kind of intimacy, possibly a play
of individual and collective sound worlds in a constant sense
of duality and apartness. Given his own personal history
it’s easy to speculate that Erdmann was seeking a focus for
some personal or political resolution - though speculation
it must remain.
no absence of acerbity – it’s present certainly but not to
an over-balancing intensity – but the overriding impression
is of a certain sectionality in which chattering sections
evolve into moments of soliloquies from section leaders – the
cello solo in the third movement for instance. They have
a chamber intimacy about them, almost a confessional sense.
The symphony ends quietly – as the foregoing might perhaps
Monogramme (Eine kleine Serenade für Orchester)
was his last work composed three years before his death.
There are three movements and once
again they have a chatty, rather Stravinskian profile - forthcoming
dialogues, really. There remains however something slightly
removed about the piece and for all the eloquence of the
wind writing a clear self never quite emerges. The finale
certainly reaches for the more bucolic end of the neo-classical
spectrum; solo violin, brass blares, playful rhythmic impulse;
nothing too serious.
there’s Ständchen für kleines Orchester, the only
example of his pre-war self on this disc. Again, neo-classicism
rules. This loquacious work once again shows us Erdmann in
truly democratic compositional form, throwing around orchestral
solos like confetti. There’s a festive feel to the third
movement finale – euphoric, emphatic, unfettered and pleasing.
performance are splendid. Yinon encourages his players with
a fine ear and a welcome generosity when it comes to individual
phrasing and inflection. The cpo recording catches gradients
and dynamics very naturally and warmly.
see also review by Kevin Sutton
Gerard Hoffnung CDs
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