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Harald GENZMER (1909-2007)
Piano Concerto No. 1 (1942) [21:19]
Cello Concerto (1950) [29:53]
Trombone Concerto (1999) [18:54]
Oliver Triendl (piano), Patrick Demenga (cello), Jörgen van Rijen (trombone), Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin / Ariane Matiakh
rec. 2017 Grosser Sendesaal, Rundfunk Berlin-Brandenburg
CAPRICCIO C5330 [71:02]

Genzmer might be an unfamiliar name as a composer but his stage in the teacher-student bloodline is healthily placed. He was a composition pupil of Hindemith in Berlin from 1928 to 1934. His students included John McCabe. Influences included Rudi Stephan, Richard Strauss and Max Reger. Genzmer used a modicum of dissonance when it suited his expressive need. In general, however, he was an adherent of the melodic tradition in a world embittered or dismissive of that tradition. As a composer he was very prolific and the birthday set of 10 CDs issued by Thorofon gives some inkling of that. His music straddles the mood temperature division between Hindemith the cool and Hindemith the passionate.

The Piano Concerto, written during the Second World War, avoids lavish romantic gestures but is essentially tonal. It rocks with attack and rhythmic life even in the Adagio second movement. The micro-Scherzo (III) dashes away with the smoothing iron and the oboe furnishes a degree of needful emotional yield. The outer movements of the four gambol, caper and strike a regal pose and that is how the work ends. This is Triendl's second recording of the Concerto; the first being in that Thorofon set.

The half-hour Cello Concerto is the longest work here. It is in three movements which alternate strenuous with lyrical. Again, there is no sign of modernistic atonality apart from a slight and provocative harmonic 'chill'. There 's a distinct heroic gesture at 7:00 and this appears several times. The cello strives and shapes a nicely balanced melody caught between content and hope. A very satisfying understated and steady tragic pulse grips the central Andante which ends in a self-effacing shimmer. The finale is highly active, protesting and volubly brusque. There are times in this concerto when Genzmer reminds me of Rawsthorne.

The little Trombone Concerto is a late work in five movements. It's an unusual instrument to receive the solo treatment but Genzmer is not alone in accommodating the instrument. Rota, Gregson, Samuel Jones and Jacob have all contributed to the genre and Hovhaness has written symphonies (17, 29, 34) with the trombone prominently exposed. Back in 2008 Tomasi's concerto was heard in the finals of BBC Young Musician of the Year. This Concerto uses the soloist cleverly with short movements and deploying plenty of variety of mood. The Tranquillo (II) is paced steadily and the following Vivace finds a rapid pulse for the orchestra. The solo instrument finds a cantabile voice most of the time even in the quicker moments. Genzmer avoids any suggestion of pratfalls and comedy. The finale recalls Malcolm Arnold in his more strait-laced moments - for example in his First Horn Concerto.

The performances seem well up to the mark, as are the liner notes by Gottfried Franz Kasparek. The recording - of radio station origins (Deutschlandfunk Kultur) - is good rather than wonderful. The treble extension tends towards thinness rather than ample tone but it is perfectly adequate and no obstacle to enjoyment of this little-heard music.

Rob Barnett



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