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Karlrobert Kreiten: Historical Recordings
Karlrobert Kreiten (piano)
Udo Falkner (piano: Lojak, Banasik)
Tobias Koch (piano: Blomenkamp, Blarr)
rec. Institut für Phonotechnik A. Hessel, Schadowstraße 52, Düsseldorf (all Kreiten recordings with the exception of Schoeck); Studio 8, Lützowstr. 111, Berlin (Schoeck); 16 July 2016, Partika-Saal, Robert Schumann Hochschule Düsseldorf, Fischerstraße 110 (Blomenkamp, Blarr, Lojak, Banasik)
CAVI-MUSIC 8553155 [79:19]

Karlrobert Kreiten (1916-43) was a victim of the Nazi terror. Betrayed to the authorities by a fanatical party member because during a private conversation the pianist had described Hitler as a lunatic, he was hanged on 7 September 1943 after a summary ‘Peoples' Court’ trial a few days before. This is the man of whom Claudio Arrau wrote: ‘If the Nazi regime had not put him to death, he undoubtedly would have earned his rightful place among the great German pianists of his day. He belonged to the ‘lost generation’ of those who could have taken up the gauntlet of the likes of Kempff and Gieseking.’

He was born in Bonn but grew up in Düsseldorf and won the Mendelssohn Prize in Berlin. He studied with Arrau from 1937 to 1940 and was soon invited to appear with the Berlin Philharmonic and other leading German orchestras. No commercial recordings exist of his playing but a cache of privately recorded examples has survived as has one DG test pressing.

What we have here is the complete surviving legacy, much of which was first issued on LP by Thorofon in 1983. Somewhat disappointingly the original discs used for that transfer appear to be lost so Avi-Music have used the LP as a basis for this CD, and there has been extensive pitch correction and reconstruction to make what are poorly recorded discs of acceptable quality. Most were originally made in a private chamber music studio with limited technical resources.

The pieces he recorded were calling cards and so part of his established repertoire. The 1933-34 sides sound variable in the necessarily cramped acoustic with limited frequency response and a lot of surface noise and overload, with associated splintering of the sound. Nevertheless, his formidable technique can be appreciated in the second book of Brahms’ Paganini Variations. His 1934 Chopin Prelude in B flat minor Op.28 No.16 is quite fiery and is back announced by the pianist himself. Some time during 1937-38 he recorded the Piano Sonata, Op.2 of the wealthy industrialist Robert Forkardt, a grouchily romantic piece that stands up to scrutiny well as does his Paraphrase on Guter Mond.

Kreiten was from a very musical family. His mother was a singer and his father a composer whose Sonatine Kreiten also recorded in September 1934 – though in very veiled sound this attractive and communicative little piece is played with nonchalant discipline. Still, one gets a far better idea of his tonal qualities in the one surviving DG test, Schoeck’s Toccata, Op.29 No.2 recorded in October 1935, and dispatched with virtuosic panache. Ravel’s Toccata and the 1933 version of Chopin’s B flat minor Prelude are, unfortunately, as much noise as music.

These and a few other pieces are all that remains of his art but to round out the disc there are homages to Kreiten from four contemporary composers. Thomas Blomenkamp’s piece is reflective and still, except for some anguished outbursts. Oskar Gottlieb Blarr, the senior composer of the quartet, balances a very intimate melancholy with a more outgoing freshness. Philipp Lojak suggests a chorale threnody in his offering whilst the loudspeaker employed in Christian Banasik’s piece lends it a most eerie effect.

The booklet offers thorough biographical and technical information, providing a wealth of the latter when it comes to exact playback speeds. Not all Kreiten’s recordings appeared in the Thorofon LP, so this is clearly the edition to have not least because of the superior remastering and the supporting documentary evidence and attractive photographs. This tragically short-lived pianist has been very well served.

Jonathan Woolf

Contents
Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897) 
Variations on a theme by Paganini Op.25 Book II [7:49]
Intermezzo in A Flat Major Op.76 No. 3 [2:14]
rec. November 1934
Robert FORKARDT (1896–1953) 
Paraphrase on Guter Mond, du gehst so stille [1:34]
Unknown title [2:21]
Piano Sonata in F sharp Minor Op.2 [12:24]
rec. 1937/38
Frédéric CHOPIN (1810-1849) 
Prélude in B Flat Major Op. 28 No.21 [2:03]
Prélude in B Flat Minor Op. 28 No.16 [1:31]
Nocturne in C sharp Minor op.posth. [3:14]
rec. October 1934
Prélude in B Flat Major Op.28 No. 21 [1:53]
Prélude in B Flat Minor Op.28 No. 16 [1:04]
rec. October 1935
Maurice RAVEL (1875-1937) 
Toccata, from: Le Tombeau de Couperin M.68 [3:56]
Frédéric CHOPIN 
Prélude in B Flat Minor Op.28 No. 16 [1:09]
rec.1933
Othmar SCHOECK (1886–1957) 
Toccata Op.29 No. 2 [2:22]
rec. 21 October 1935
Johann STRAUSS Jr. (1825-1899) 
The Blue Danube Op.314 (arr. by Theo Kreiten) [8:48]
rec.16 June 1938
Theo KREITEN (1887-1960) 
Sonatine in E Major [9:56]
rec. 25 September 1934
Oskar Gottlieb BLARR (b.1934) 
Karlrobert Kreiten, from: My Hometown at the River (1987) [4:36]
Philipp LOJAK (b.1994) 
Klang – Feuer – Asche. Hommage à Karlrobert Kreiten (2016) [4:02]
Christian BANASIK (b.1963) 
20 Begegnung 8 – lento. For piano and loudspeaker. In Memoriam Karlrobert Kreiten for his 100th birthday [3:32]
Thomas BLOMENKAMP (b.1955) 
Fragment, In Memory of Karlrobert Kreiten (2016) [3:47]

 

 




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