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Emil HARTMANN (1836-1898)
Solo Piano Works
Full contents list at end of review
Cathrine Penderup (piano - Steinway Model D)
rec. Lars Heslet, Gentofte, Denmark, 9-11 February 2012, 18-20 June 2013. ADD
DANACORD DACOCD 744-745 [73:44 + 74:16]

The easy-going charm of Emil Hartmann’s piano music is brought to life very warmly by Cathrine Penderup in this Danacord twofer. We can’t quite follow him chronologically since he was not much given to dating his pieces but the influences and heritage is pretty plain. One would expect the influence of Hardanger fiddle music and we find it, though it’s by no means omni-present. In fact it’s really only in From the Highlands that it makes itself audible, the folkloric infusions adding materially to the delight of this playful suite, full of dance, drollery and nostalgia. There are certainly hints of Chopin in the Arabesque, Op.16 No.1 but it does delve into other more discursive romantic waters too – Hartmann is certainly a product of his time but he is not a slavish inheritor of romantic declamation. The virtuosic pretensions of the Caprice are very much a public and extrovert side of his nature, once again revealing the Chopinesque colour of his writing.
The four sonatas are not quite what one may have been expected. Thoughts of Grieg’s sonata should be put to one side. Two are in F major and one of them is directly patterned after Mozart, the other a genial light-hearted, simple work with a winsome but rewardingly lyrical slow movement. The unfinished sonata in G minor has variations of tempo and texture and is quite strongly characterised and enshrines hints of Schumann in heroic mode in the finale. This is certainly potentially the most valuable of the sonatas, despite its incomplete state, though the Pastorale finale of the Sonata in D has some delicious bell peals and swaying rhythms.
The inspiration for the extended Scenes from a Ball, Op. 23 was clearly Schumann’s Carnaval and the individual movements have enough of a sense of characterisation to ensure that the very grand final scene feels earned, rather than stuck-on triumphantly. Of the other pieces I’d particularly point to the Four Piano Pieces, Op. 31 which are both deft and delightful, not least the Canzonetta, which could be an encore piece if pianists only but knew it. Perhaps Penderup’s splendid playing will encourage some of them to take it up.
Jonathan Woolf
Previous reviews: John France & Rob Barnett

Full Contents List

Emil Hartmann: Solo Piano Works 
CD 1
From the Highlands, Op. 11 [14:55]
‘From the Highlands’ [3:27] Old Memories [2:19] In a Play [2:28] At the Fjord [3:59] Folk-dance [2:42]
Arabesque (Theme varié), Op. 16, No. 1 [5:16]
Caprice, Op. 16, No. 2 [6:19]
‘Jean de France’ (Sarabande) [4:10]
Sonata, F major [9:57]
Scherzetto [2:08]
Sonata F major, Op. 17 (easy & instructive without octaves in F) [7:55]
Album leaf [1:31]
Capriccio 1 (Rondo) [3:38]
Capriccio 2 [3:34]
‘Unfinished’ Sonata in G minor [14:46]
CD 2
Sonata, D major [13:46]
Scenes from a Ball, Op. 23, Introduction [1:25] Valse gracieuse [2:51] Polka [4:31] Minuet [5:57] Intermezzo I - ‘La Coquette’ [4:02] Contredanse [2:42] Valse [3:19] Galop furioso [2:39] Intermezzo II - Scène d'amour [4:07] Tyrolienne [2:17] Valse-finale [5:55]
Three Mazurkas, Op. 28, Moderato [2:18] Vivo [2:20] Allegretto [2:21]
Four Piano Pieces, Op. 31, Elegy [3:58] Impromptu [2:51] Canzonetta [3:44] Etude [3:14]