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Karl August HERMANN (1851–1909)
Complete Piano Music
Nicolas Horvath (piano)
rec. 2016, Studio Paris-Forêt, Achères-la-Forêt, France

These are all first recordings of music by an Estonian composer with a distinctly Germanic name. The notes tell us that Karl August Hermann was a mover and shaker in Estonia's 'national awakening' at a time when nationalism was sweeping the Scandinavian and Baltic countries. We are told that the tireless Hermann "was a linguist, journalist, choir-leader, song-writer, historian, literary philologist, encyclopaedist and more". His music includes various choral songs - often a strong presence in the Nordic countries.

The French pianist Nicolas Horvath has unearthed his 26 surviving piano pieces. There are no towering masterworks here but across their diminutive scale the pieces are fluently engaging and disarmingly approachable. As salon pieces little good is served by addressing each and every one of them. We should however mention a representative few. The Ausser Athem! is a music-box-like little charmer with the surface presentation adopted from Grieg. The Air estonien is steadily and nobly orated as you might expect from the title. Estnische Volkslied is a friendly amble. Eesti Waltz is a suitable accelerating accompaniment to a country dance evening. The Marche de Fête is delicately sculpted and simple - a sentimental effusion, as are so many of these pieces. The Allegretto is again placid and amiable. Not much sign here of Hermann the mover and shaker. That accepted, he had a sure hand when creating miniatures that would please. There is a little more depth and substance in the final Three Characteristic Pieces but modest enough.

The booklet sets forth the usual (for Toccata) superb encyclopaedic essay. Entitled "Karl August Hermann: An Estonian Idealist and his Time" it is by Anne Prommik.

The recordings are friendly and professionally engaged, as are the performances by Nicolas Horvath. Even so, keep your expectations in check for on this basis Hermann majored on salon charm rather than volcanic revelation.

Rob Barnett
Suve õhtu eha ajal (Summer Evening at Twilight) [2:20]
Tundline unistus [2:31]
Des Lebens Kampf [2:16]
Winter und Frühling [1:22]
Valse nationale des Esthoniens [1:28]
Ausser Athem! [3:09]
Air estonien varié et modulé [4:10]
Die Lösung des Rätsels [2:03]
Estnische Volkslied [2:36]
Air d'été [1:35
Pulli Hansu pulmad (Funny Hans Wedding) [1:33
Eesti Waltz (Estonian Waltz) [1:01
Alletamine ja sarve- ning torupilli lugu (Humming, Horn and Bagpipe Song) [1:39] Pensées de vie (Thoughts of Life’) [2:44
Pensée Musicale (‘Musical Thought’) [2:36]
Marche de Fête (Festival March’) [3:08]
Walzerstimmung (Waltz Mood) [1:38]
Andantino in A major [3:58]
Albumi leht (‘Album Leaf’) [2:20]
Allegretto in F major [1:42]
Kadund Kinnas (‘Lost Glove’) [0:45]
Concert-Étude in C major [2:42]
Traurig und freudig (‘Sad and Happy’) [1:41]
Kolm karakterpala (‘Three Characteristic Pieces’) (No. 1, Per aspera ad astra; No. 2, In hilaritate; No. 3, Polca futura) [8:40]


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