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Friedrich GERNSHEIM (1839-1916)
Violin Sonata in E minor (1853) [20:23]
Violin Sonata No 1 in C minor, Op 4 (pub 1865) [16:39]
Violin Sonata No 2 in C, Op 50 (1885) [25:24]
Violin Sonata No 3 in F, Op 64 (1898 rev 1905) [30:17]
Violin Sonata No 4 in G, Op 85 (pub 1912) [25:44]
Introduction and Allegro appassionato, Op 38 (pub 1876) [9:24]
Andante in F major (1853) [5:55]
Christoph Schickedanz (violin), Ernst Breidenbach (piano)
rec. May and October 2019, Kammermusiksaal Deutschlandfunk
CPO 555 330-2 [67:26 + 66:34]

CPO is heading a revival of the music of Friedrich Gernsheim. The First and Third Symphonies have already been reviewed by me, the Second and Fourth by Rob Barnett, and there are also reviews of the Violin Concertos, the Piano Quintets, and the String Quartets. A number of these reviews will hyperlink you to the other labels currently investigating Gernsheim though it remains true to say that the lion’s share of this composer’s music on disc belongs to CPO.

His works for violin and piano occupied him for fully half a century and reveal the changing features of his compositional style. The early works date from 1853. The unnumbered Sonata in E minor, written as a talented fourteen-year-old, is rather Mendelssohnian in its classical way though his propensity for songfulness is present even this early. The skittish off-beat Scherzo shouts out its Beethovenian lineage very clearly. At almost the same time he wrote an Andante in F major, flowing and innocent.

The First Sonata was published in 1865 but could have been written somewhat earlier. Its opening sense of melancholy seems to acknowledge elements of the Baroque in its phraseology, though it turns incrementally stormy, followed by a cleansing Allegretto with its fine trio and robust piano writing. The finale becomes more and more tensile with some bravura violin writing and the appearance, mercifully brief, of a fugato. This work served notice that Gernsheim was a more than proficient composer for the medium, a feeling cemented in the Second Sonata Op 50 (1885), which is both thematically nourishing and full of variations of texture and rhythm. Flowing lyricism irradiates the central Andante though it admits some disruptive, disconcerting moments as well as a solemn tread. Gernsheim could pile on the energy quotient, as he does throughout this work but particularly so in the finale.

In the Third Sonata there is again plenty of contrast and drama and once more Christoph Schickedanz and Ernst Breidenbach serve him well as they pay attention to the stormy invective of the Scherzo as much as the attractive warmth of the slow movement. Though, as ever with Gernsheim in his chamber works, nothing is ever straightforward, and the emotive temperature is not always easy to gauge. Breidenbach clearly relishes his opportunities in the finale and with good cause; this is robust, agile writing. Published in 1912 the Fourth Sonata is his most maturely cast work in the form. His gift for rapid mood painting, triumphant brio, thematically elevated writing, quietly elegiac paragraphs and an unbuttoned Lšndler shows what he was capable of writing.

The booklet notes are excellent, and these thoroughly accomplished performances admirably draw on the fire and elegance of Gernsheim’s music and have themselves been finely recorded too.

Jonathan Woolf

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