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Offline Ten thumbs

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Theodor Kirchner's Little Casino
« on: January 06, 2012, 03:24:47 AM »
I have in the past looked over many of Kirchner's piano works, so I think maybe I should give my thoughts on them. There are so many it is easy to give up on the mediocre and miss out on the gems. Some brief notes on him can be found here:

www.bach-cantatas.com/Lib/Kirchner-Theodor.htm

It's a pity he was never able to splash with some big bets. He just didn't seem able to get to grips with large forms. I will mention in among his works for other ensembles although at present I know nothing of them. To begin with he was very keen on lieder and published:
Op.1 10 Lieder
Op.3 Mädchenlieder
Op.4 4 Lieder
Op.6 5 Lieder
Op.10 2 Lieder

Then for some reason he abandoned this genre never to return.

My first little flutter will be with the 10 Klavierstücke, Op.2
A day may be a destiny; for life
Lives in but little—but that little teems
With some one chance, the balance of all time:
A look—a word—and we are wholly changed.

Offline Ten thumbs

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Re: Theodor Kirchner's Little Casino
« Reply #1 on: January 09, 2012, 06:54:20 AM »
My assessments of Kirchner’s music will of course be my own subjective reactions. There are some that I singled out and play fairly regularly. Others are allowed an occasional airing and the rest, hardly at all – there is so much keyboard music to be played. For this review I have revisited them all plus a few oeuvre that have since resurfaced.
Kirchner often uses the ABA structure, so if I refer to a middle section that is what I mean. Sometimes he writes out the repeat even though it is hardly changed at all.
To understand a composer’s historical position one really needs a timeline but at the moment I am uncertain here.  Op.1 was published in 1843 and given a glowing review by Schumann. The publication date for Op.2 is given as 1852, which seems unlikely, and yet I’m given: Op.5 (1855) and Op.20 (1874). Heavens! He was over fifty years old by then. Can anyone clarify these dates?

Op.2 10 Klavierstücke – Band 1
1. Schumann’s influence is immediately apparent. This is a powerful beginning and it reflects Schumann’s opinion that here was a young composer of great promise. The mid-section (ruhiger) involves quite thick counterpoint and is perhaps rather turgid (I’m not sure I understand the instruction ‘sehr gebunden’ here).
2. Einfach (simple). This is a through composed melody that is very pleasing with a good climax before a lovely ending (Bb > F). The accompaniment is actually quite elaborate.
3. I like this one too. It has a piquant flavour due to the L.H. overlapping, F over E, C over B, Bb over A etc. The mid-section is strident (sehr kräftig) but not overlong and the return is recomposed using both syncopation and the strong rhythm picked up from the mid-section. Finally the piece drifts into repose.
4. Mit humor. Potentially interesting but needs great commitment. So far I haven’t discovered the punch line!
5. Zart (tenderly) sehr gebunden. This is a beautiful piece with a floating offbeat melody that is full of pathos. One of my favourites, it would make a perfect background for a sad thoughtful TV drama – producers please note!

Band 2 to follow
« Last Edit: February 01, 2012, 04:18:29 AM by Ten thumbs »
A day may be a destiny; for life
Lives in but little—but that little teems
With some one chance, the balance of all time:
A look—a word—and we are wholly changed.

Offline Ten thumbs

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Re: Theodor Kirchner's Little Casino
« Reply #2 on: January 13, 2012, 09:54:46 AM »
I now think the dates are correct and it is probably Kirchner’s early lack of compositional activity that resulted in him making no impact. If one picks and chooses (and there’s a great deal to choose from) then one can find enough to place him alongside say, Grieg, in the second half of the century. He always carries a Schumannesque aura but adds sharper harmonies and more intricate rhythms. Certainly more worthy of hearing than Rubinstein et al.

Op.2 10 Klavierstücke – Band 2

6. Nicht schell, mit innigem Ausdruck. This has a wistful melody over a syncopated accompaniment. The mid-section proceeds in sombre snatches of dissonance that rise repeatedly in volume only to fall back. The opening part is then repeated but overall a worthwhile piece.
7. Lebhaft (lively). A little scherzo in 6/8 with interesting key changes. After a repeat, new material leads to a varied reprise. Quite fun due to its shortness.
8. Ziemlich langsam. This piece is also short but I find it rather repetitive and dull.
9. Mit leidenschaftlichem Vortrag. This Eb minor piece is the most powerful in the set – a veritable wild ride through the night. Even the Eb major section maintains the tension with a yearning melody that maintains the upward leaps of the opening. The ending is rounded off with a fine coda.
10. Langsam, und Ausdruck. This is strongly reminiscent of the ending of Schumann’s Humoreske (I don’t know which came first). Anyway, if you like one, you should like the other.

On the whole, I recommend No.4 for beauty and No.9 for the beast.
Clara Schumann’s choice was No.2 and No.9.
A day may be a destiny; for life
Lives in but little—but that little teems
With some one chance, the balance of all time:
A look—a word—and we are wholly changed.

Offline Ten thumbs

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Re: Theodor Kirchner's Little Casino
« Reply #3 on: January 13, 2012, 09:59:04 AM »
Op.5 Grüsse an meine Freunde (1855)

I think I understand this title now – hey! You guys. I’m not dead. Look, I’ve actually composed something else!
(Incidentally if you try this from a scanned copy you’ll find it useful to clarify the accidentals. There are a great many precautionary signs and the sharps and naturals are not easily distinguishable.)

1. Ziemlich Langsam. This short introduction has a heart-warming tenderness. Note the wide-ranging L. H. accompaniment.
2. Kräftig. Here Kirchner’s power is not misplaced – this is a splendid piece. Note the contrasting centre with strange offbeat rhythms (ruhiger, frei vorzutragen) and the driving rhythms that lead to the conclusion.
3. Ruhig, zart. A pleasant piece with a wistful melody that emerges from the counterpoint, with a stronger, more powerful central section in the same vein.
4. Energisch. Another fine piece with a strong fluctuating rhythm – principally in 6/8 but the composer twice inserts 4/4 without warning and also twice into 2/4 (Langsam träumerisch). Lots of energy and an exciting piece to play.
5. Sehr markirt. This is quite a challenge – it is very dissonant and spatially challenging. I have a feeling that with the right orchestration it would sound like Mahler. I’m nowhere near mastering it yet.


A day may be a destiny; for life
Lives in but little—but that little teems
With some one chance, the balance of all time:
A look—a word—and we are wholly changed.

Offline Ten thumbs

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Re: Theodor Kirchner's Little Casino
« Reply #4 on: January 22, 2012, 06:59:37 AM »
Op.7 Albumblätter (1856)

Clara Schumann took up these little pieces after she’d fallen out with the composer, so she must have liked them. They are included complete in Henle’s selection of Kirchner’s works. Being short, they are through composed and full of fresh new ideas.

1. Ruhig, zart. A single page but a perfect example of how to create emotive music with minimum means.
2. Munter, nicht zu schell. A merry little piece with extra snatches of melody thrown in as it goes along.
3. Ziemlich Langsam träumerisch. A single line of drooping arpeggios. Effective but requires careful handling.
4. Mäßiges Tempo (sehr im Takt) In strict 3/4 time, I find this the most interesting in the set. The quivering pianissimo semiquavers are very evocative.
5. Mit melancholischem Ausdruck. A lovely fragment of haunting counterpoint.
6. Nicht zu schnell, mit Humor. This piece jogs along with a delightful good-humour, and it’s not an old joke!
7. Scherzhaft. This little bagatelle is my second favourite – so short and yet so sweet.
8. Ziemlich schnell. Shorter still, its little off-beat phrases gallop away and then are gone.
9. Langsam Ausdrucksvoll. An expression of yearning with somewhat Wagnerian harmonies that diffuse into a sweet D major ending.
A day may be a destiny; for life
Lives in but little—but that little teems
With some one chance, the balance of all time:
A look—a word—and we are wholly changed.

Offline Ten thumbs

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Re: Theodor Kirchner's Little Casino
« Reply #5 on: January 22, 2012, 07:01:32 AM »
Op.8 Scherzo (1857)
This is a typically Schumannesque scherzo. The main section’s rhythm is perhaps a little too persistent but the overall contour is good and there is variety in the added 17 bar coda at the end. The trio really is a joy with a fluid quaver line with added melodic notes and a very widespread accompaniment. Doesn't deserve abandonment.
A day may be a destiny; for life
Lives in but little—but that little teems
With some one chance, the balance of all time:
A look—a word—and we are wholly changed.

Offline Ten thumbs

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Re: Theodor Kirchner's Little Casino
« Reply #6 on: February 01, 2012, 04:23:53 AM »
Op.9 Preludes (1859)
These are dedicated to Clara Schumann and come in two books of 8. The composer has taken some time putting these together but they are worth the waiting. If he had only maintained this standard he might he a household name today. In some ways these preludes (which were never intended as a full set of 24) occupy a halfway position between Chopin and Rakhmaninov. Clara herself was quite critical of some of Kirchner’s harmonies, which she describes as recherché. However, she did re-adopt these later after her rift with the composer.

Book I
1. C minor – Allegro energico. A passionate etude-like fragment closing triumphantly in C major.
2. Db – Lento ma non troppo. A gently rocking melody over a wide-stepping accompaniment (4 octaves).
3. F# - Allegretto grazioso. 6/8 – a flowing quaver line circling around an emergent melody that itself inhabits a wide compass.
4. A – Allegretto agitato. A lovely piece with yearning uprising phrases over a pulsating beat – all too short but at least D.C is indicated.
5. D minor – Allegro vivace. A much longer piece with an urgent reiterative motif that in due course shifts to F. A short fugato-like section leads into the return in D major and thence to a quiet ending.
6. A – Allegro con brio. 3/4 – another more exrended piece – a full-blooded outflowing of the Romantic spirit with a singing meno mosso as contrast. This is music that deserves to be heard.
7. Db – Allegro con spirito. 4/4 – another in the same vein and of similar length. An awkward staccato section leads back to the opening material and occurs again briefly in the close.
8. C minor – Allegro comodo. I love this prelude. The opening phrases with their quirky harmonies sound very 20th century. The answering section is more conventional but very apt. After a repeat the composer gives even more mysterious manifestations of the opening and he maintains the feeling of distance right to the end.

Book II
These are included complete in Henle’s selection of Kirchner’s works.
9. Allegro (ma non troppo) – Bb. This is a relentless staccato march only relieved by an interim quavered section developed from the theme – a piece of considerable power.
10. Cantabile – G una corda. This prelude with its ravishing dissonances ought to be a classic. Although the harmonies stretched Clara Schumann’s patience it is hard to see how any book on Romantic piano music can be of any worth without referring to works such as this.
11. Allegro brillante – E minor. Clara laments its brevity. A piece that it is hard to believe to have been unknown to Rakhmaninov.
12. Con moto – C. An exercise in staccato chromatics this is one I confess to have avoided – it is difficult. However, I believe there to be much in it if you have the time.
13. Allegro con passione – Ab. Another high-Romantic piece whose harmonies shocked Clara, for a while at least, and that’s without mentioning the note-clusters.
14. Allegro agitato – Db. This opens as one of Kirchner’s skipping pieces but moves into a extended moderato section that is interesting rhythmically and quite moving. The reprise rises into the upper keyboard and a recitative then descends towards a quiet ending. There is plenty of scope for interpretation here.
15. Allegro scherzando – A. Very strong and original syncopated rhythms make this an exciting piece to play. I challenge anyone to get it right first time!
16. Allegro appassionato – B. A splendidly pulsating prelude full of shifting dynamics. Passionate indeed and only interrupted by a short hymn like passage that always reminds me of Scriabin’s Mazurka Op25.9. This is my favourite.
A day may be a destiny; for life
Lives in but little—but that little teems
With some one chance, the balance of all time:
A look—a word—and we are wholly changed.

Offline Ten thumbs

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Re: Theodor Kirchner's Little Casino
« Reply #7 on: February 10, 2012, 12:04:05 PM »
Op.11 Skizzen (Kleine Klaviestücke) (1870-2)

The ten-year gap between piano publications seems to have been filled with Kirchner’s other duties, as organist and conductor. His problem was that what was once bold became commonplace and ultimately ran the risk of becoming stilted. That is why it is necessary to pick and choose.

These sketches are new to me and only have scores for books 1 and 3.
Book 1
1. Andante - Hardly worthwhile.
2. Vivace leggiero – Shows some originality.
3. Allegretto – A bit like Shostakovich gone wrong!
4. Ruhig – With lovely rich harmonies and counterpoint and a moving ending but the major section is weaker.
5. Allegretto grazioso – This frisky little piece has some good points.
Book 3
1. Moderato, con molto espressione. This is the surprise here – hardly a sketch but a full blown concert piece with luscious Romantic harmonies. Definitely recommended. Another forerunner of Rakhmaninov.
2. Allegro resoluto. A robust piece that is well worked out.
3. Moderato – Quite a nice song without words but nothing special.
4. Vivace – A lively piece with interesting features. Something could be made of this with a little practice.
5. Andante – A short piece with bold harmonies though these are hardly enough to save it.

Of the above the only one I’d happily put before the public is Book 3 No.1
« Last Edit: February 14, 2012, 08:20:33 AM by Ten thumbs »
A day may be a destiny; for life
Lives in but little—but that little teems
With some one chance, the balance of all time:
A look—a word—and we are wholly changed.

Offline Odnoposoff

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Re: Theodor Kirchner's Little Casino
« Reply #8 on: February 10, 2012, 05:02:46 PM »
He arranged/transcribed the two Brahm's sextets to piano trios. A really very good work. There's a fantastic recording by Alexander Rabinovich on piano, David Geringas on cello, and no less than Philip Hirschhorn on violin.

Offline Ten thumbs

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Re: Theodor Kirchner's Little Casino
« Reply #9 on: February 14, 2012, 08:51:40 AM »
He arranged/transcribed the two Brahm's sextets to piano trios. A really very good work. There's a fantastic recording by Alexander Rabinovich on piano, David Geringas on cello, and no less than Philip Hirschhorn on violin.

Kirchner made quite a number of transcriptions for which he was well known, including the Beethoven symphonies, often for two pianos, eight hands. Also the Brahms Piano Quintet Op.34 for piano duet.
A day may be a destiny; for life
Lives in but little—but that little teems
With some one chance, the balance of all time:
A look—a word—and we are wholly changed.

Offline Ten thumbs

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Re: Theodor Kirchner's Little Casino
« Reply #10 on: February 21, 2012, 01:26:11 PM »
Op.12 Adagio quasi Fantasia (1870)
This attempt at a more extended work never takes off for me. It has received some praise but I find it rather flat in the middle where there are repeated almost identical returns to Eb major. Although this is in Henle’s selection, with so much music to choose from, I don’t usually play it. I have the recording by David Ianni and it does sound better in his hands. If you’d like to judge for yourself, you can listen on: www.youtube.com/watch?v=eOu74pTq8CU
A day may be a destiny; for life
Lives in but little—but that little teems
With some one chance, the balance of all time:
A look—a word—and we are wholly changed.

Offline Ten thumbs

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Re: Theodor Kirchner's Little Casino
« Reply #11 on: February 21, 2012, 01:29:10 PM »
Op.13 Lieder ohne Worte (1873)

Kirchner now begins to find time for composing but he’s no longer at the cutting edge, so, like Brahms, he must rely on quality and this in his case is like the parson’s egg. For a while at least he does quite well.
These have been recorded by Gisela Ungerer
1. Largo ma non troppo. A slow lament. This relies heavily on the harmonies but it does work for me. The main section after the repeated opening employs triplet pedal notes that help to move the music forward.
2. Allegretto cantabile. A delightful song without words. A duet that can rival Mendelssohn’s Op.38.6 Duettino. Recommended.
3. Allegro. An outburst of burning ardour that is at last satisfied and settles into a gorgeous ending. Also well worthwhile.
4. Animato. Kirchner does at least deserve some credit for this outburst of ecstasy that predates Scriabin by many years. One really has to let oneself go in performance and if you enjoy doing so then this piece is for you.
5. Agitato con passione. A turbulent opening is enlivened by a contrapuntal texture.  This music is repeated after the mid-section, which has a high melody strongly reminiscent of something I’ve heard in a show. This piece is not easy to handle but is worthwhile if you can pull it off.
6. Con affetto. This is more of a conte than a chanson, and quite an effective one too with a nice contrasting section full of drooping phrases, which are reintroduced to round the piece off.
7. Melancolico. A single page (with repeats) of plodding arpeggiated chords marked pp, una corda. Melancholy it is but it fails to break my heart.
A day may be a destiny; for life
Lives in but little—but that little teems
With some one chance, the balance of all time:
A look—a word—and we are wholly changed.

Offline Ten thumbs

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Re: Theodor Kirchner's Little Casino
« Reply #12 on: February 23, 2012, 03:20:56 PM »
Op.14 Fantasiestücke (1873)

Kirchner’s output now becomes constant. Although my preference is for the lyrical, I will not forgive when he descends into the sentimental or uses weak cadences. For other reasons, the first here is not my cup of tea.

1. Marsch. Sounds very raucous and it just goes on and on. You could make this work if you have the stamina.
2. Albumblatt  (sehr ruhig) Not a great deal here but harmonically interesting. The ending is effective.
3. Capriccioso. This is a very lively piece that uses the keyboard well apart from the little Trio that to my mind is too static.
4. Nocturne. This has a lovely melody over a rocking accompaniment. The reduction to bare bones towards the close is very moving. Recommended.
5. Präludium (agitato con passione). A fine F# minor prelude with plenty of contrapuntal interest and a well contrasted (tender) meno moto section. Well worth trying.
6. Novelleten. This is an extremely confident and powerful piece throughout and the mid-section with its strongly rhythmic undulating quavers is a stroke of genius. Another classic.
7. Studie. This study is not long but it is far from straightforward. At present I can get some pleasure from it but the whole meaning escapes me.
8. Scherzo. A typical Kirchner scherzo – somewhat quirky and seemingly disjointed. If you like that kind of thing, this is a good example.
9. Polonaise. This is a sedate dance that needs to be kept at a moderate tempo. It’s quite well composed but doesn’t appeal to me.
A day may be a destiny; for life
Lives in but little—but that little teems
With some one chance, the balance of all time:
A look—a word—and we are wholly changed.

Offline Ten thumbs

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Re: Theodor Kirchner's Little Casino
« Reply #13 on: March 04, 2012, 08:55:03 AM »

Op.16 Kleine Lust und Trauerspiele (1873)

Overall, this opus is patchy but it does contain some good things.
Book 1
1. Marzia (poco lento). A slow sedate march with plenty of counterpoint but on the whole I find it dull.
2. Mässiges Tempo, aber Frisch. A shortish piece but with enough interest to make it a pleasure to play.
3. Langsam, schwermüthig. An effective elegy with powerful major/minor shifts. Very moving.
4. Kräftig, nicht schnell. This one doesn’t appeal to me.
Book 2
5. Allegretto. A light-hearted piece that nevertheless has some heart – worth an occasional airing.
6. Animato. A vigorous 2/4 that is more of a 6/8 whose compass ranges from the narrow to the wide-ranging. There is also an extended cantabile middle section (ruhiger, singend) with some very fine passages. Overall I can recommend this piece.
7. Allegretto grazioso. Another interesting little piece enlivened by its many key changes.
8. Marsch. This march really is good fun and has lots going on – some of its ideas are played about with in a dolce middle section, which provides good contrast (Eb against G). Yes, I’ve actually found a march that I do like!
Book 3
9. Ruhig. This is a lovely tender little piece that melts magically from the base key of F# minor into A major at the end. Recommended.
10. Vivace. A light staccato piece that skips along without apparently getting anywhere.
11. Vivace scherzando.  An interesting D minor scherzo but the serenity of its trio needs careful interpretation.
12. Sehr langsam. A deeply thoughtful piece – not perfect but good enough to deserve rescue.

Op.17 Davidsbundlertanze.

I haven’t yet found a score for this but I have recently acquired the recording by
It will take me a little longer before I can express any opinions.
A day may be a destiny; for life
Lives in but little—but that little teems
With some one chance, the balance of all time:
A look—a word—and we are wholly changed.

Offline Ten thumbs

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Re: Theodor Kirchner's Little Casino
« Reply #14 on: March 04, 2012, 01:20:45 PM »
Op.18 Legenden. (1876)

There is enough in this opus to make it worth acquisition although whether or not it is in print I do not know. Ten years ago, I found a music shop in Amsterdam that had many of Kirchner’s works available, published I think by Amadeus Press. In those days I knew little apart from the Nachtbilder and didn’t want to make a punt on anything else unheard. Anyway, many of these works can be found on IMSLP.

1) This is in Henle’s selection – deservedly. It is one of the saddest pieces I know. The plaintive melody is underlain with countermelodies that clash in crushing dissonances. It is then restated against undulating 16th notes, una corda before finally appearing briefly in canon, only to be dragged down chromatically into utter despair.
2) Another effective legend in which a sense of distance is achieved by moving the melody into distant keys. Initially in Eb, it moves into G, then G minor, B and finally a ghostly Fb.
3) Con moto. The opening section is a little lacking but the piece takes off at the ‘doppia movimento’.
4) Lento. This is a solemn legend, full of rich harmonies that burst out unexpectedly, as in the FF climax in Bb against the home key of B – descending bells bring the piece to a close. Recommended.
5) Poco animato. This requires carefull handling of the fluctuating tempo and dynamics in the outer parts, which frame a more serious central section that gives a sense of unreality.
6) Con moto. This is something of a lazy days piece that lilts along through weird and wonderful manifestations of the principal motifs – highly recommended.
7) (con espressione). A short but effective display of the high-Romantic spirit – also recommended.
8 ) Largo. This is another manifestation of bells. A solemn hymn-like melody grows to an enormous climax and then fades against rising bell- like scales that finally rise from the very base of the piano. Magnificent.
9) Andante. This last piece achieves its goal through simplicity. An almost timeless air is played once softly and again louder, the answering phrase expands to FF and then fades away to PP.

Op.19 10 Klavierstücke nach eigenen Liedern

This is presumably arrangement of his own songs but I do not have sight of it.
« Last Edit: August 24, 2012, 10:44:23 AM by Ten thumbs »
A day may be a destiny; for life
Lives in but little—but that little teems
With some one chance, the balance of all time:
A look—a word—and we are wholly changed.

Offline Ten thumbs

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Re: Theodor Kirchner's Little Casino
« Reply #15 on: March 15, 2012, 02:24:56 PM »
Op.21 Aquarellen (1875)
(Watercolours)

There is some fine music in this opus and it doesn’t deserve to be neglected.

1. Etwas langsam und innig. This comes in two repeated sections. It can work but requires extreme sensitivity.
2. This is a lovely lilting piece that, after a repeat, builds to an offbeat climax and then melts away in a most apposite manner – sheer magic.
3. Ruhig, zart. A gentle little piece in which Kirchner is still able to avoid sentimentality.
4. Sehr lebhaft. This is in effect a scherzo and a very fine one at that. The main part has a flow of offbeat rhythms that are a real joy to perform and the ‘trio’ provides a beautiful contrast (6/8 Viel langsam und sehr zaht) and ends in a link passage marked etwas bewegter (one needs to learn a little German along the way!) before we’re off again. Recommended.
5. Ziemlich langsam. This too has two repeated sections and can be described in the same way as No.3.
6. Nicht zu schnell. This again has two repeated sections followed by a short coda. I find more in this than I did at first. It has a waltz like rhythm without being one and it helps to get to grips with the key changes. The following sequence of quavers is rather amusing: F Gb Ab Bbb F Gb G# A E# F# G# A
7. Cantabile. The same can be said here about the key changes. After an introductory section the rest is repeated but with some justification. Another that improves with keeping.
8. Allegretto scherzando. I’d forgotten this one but it’s a lovely piece and fun to play. Again, it has repeats (here written out) but there is a short coda.
9. Langsam mit viel Empfindung. A piece of brooding magnificence in F# - rising to a superb climax and through composed to a well thought out conclusion. Recommended.
10. Poco vivace. A skittish piece whose elements are nevertheless beautifully put together to make a more than worthwhile whole. One of my favorites.
11. Etwas langsam und singend. A stroke of genius – one of the most beautiful piano pieces ever composed in spite of its at times strange harmonies. The return of the tune in the bass against a descending scale is ravishing, as is the tiptoed ending Bb ⇒ Gb ⇒ Db. Definitely recommended.
12. Cantabile. Perhaps a bit of an anticlimax after the last but it does have a simple charm.
A day may be a destiny; for life
Lives in but little—but that little teems
With some one chance, the balance of all time:
A look—a word—and we are wholly changed.

Offline Ten thumbs

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Re: Theodor Kirchner's Little Casino
« Reply #16 on: March 27, 2012, 01:34:48 PM »
Op.22 Romanzen (1875)
This is a very strong opus containing much original work.

1. Poco lento. This gorgeous piece escapes sentimentality through its inventive harmonies. The little sigh of its first two notes pervade the music to its end and the second entry of the melody against enveloping arpeggios is exquisitely managed.
2. Allegro. Here lies the answer to the first with the two notes rising instead of falling. The mood is quite upbeat apart from the repeated syncopations that pervade the mid-section and reappear at the end. Another fine piece.
3. Andante. A sad little legato melody steps its way against staccato pp chords (sans pedale) until the music smooths out and an energetic outburst leads to a passionate outburst that dies away to leave the melody to close the piece in melancholy.
4. Allegro. Kirchner at his boldest, this required uninhibited playing but the number of notes per crotchet should be as written. In parts magnificent, in parts fantastic and the brave spirit will find here one of the pinnacles of Romantic art (if one can stay on the tightrope).
5. Allegro ma non troppo (appassionato). A more conventional approach to the High-Romantic but nevertheless full of powerful ideas. There is a fine climax and a quiet ending.
6. Lento. A placid romance after the recent storms. The melody, as is common in Kirchner, moves about the keyboard and is invested with contrapuntal phrases.
7. Vivace. This begins with a very Schumannesque chromatic phrase. However, Kirchner develops it throughout into something more – the dolce passages maintain the same tempo and give this extended piece a strong unity. Recommended.
8. Andante ( simplice). Not a strong ending but it has redeeming features. The short mid-section moves from F into Db and in the return the quiet melody is decorated with descending semiquaver figures.
A day may be a destiny; for life
Lives in but little—but that little teems
With some one chance, the balance of all time:
A look—a word—and we are wholly changed.

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Re: Theodor Kirchner's Little Casino
« Reply #17 on: April 23, 2012, 10:32:16 AM »
Op.23 Walzer (1876)

These little waltzes are dedicated to Brahms. The art of writing short pieces is to include an idea that captures the attention. Kirchner has varying success with that.

1. Dolce. (In Henle’s edition) and
2. Lebhaft both have repeated sections and mobile accompaniments that involve many key changes. To me they seem somewhat chaotic.
3. Langsam, ausdrucksvoll is a short free form waltz that is much more approachable and worth noting.
4. Dolce. Here there is such an idea, even if it is only an offbeat octave in the bass – it works and after the double repeat it finishes the piece off nicely.
5. The offbeat rhythms are here picked up with a vengeance and this waltz really takes off. Note the unexpected delays in the phrase openings. This piece with its closing fireworks would make an excellent encore. Recommended (also in Henle).
6. Here is a relatively simple idea that might have come from Brahms but Kirchner builds it up through a series of distant keys.
7. Lebhaft. Very short and offbeat with the second section repeated pianissimo. Great fun.
8. Lebhaft. Another lively syncopated waltz. The change of rhythm in the middle requires good discipline.
9. Lebhaft. A much longer waltz that to my mind has a Russian air. The tonal plan is E min – E – E min but these keys are only touched on occasionally Nevertheless it has a strong sense of continuity. Also recommended.
10. Without tempo indication but a gentle pace imposes itself. A lovely little piece that is great for alternating thumbs in mid keyboard!
11. Lebhaft. Back to vigorous mode but this is far from Strauss! Hemiolas are paramount and after two repeats, hands alternate top the end. Exciting stuff!
12. A lovely melody to finish with and overall it seems probable that this set should be regarded as a cycle. It contains some excellent music.
A day may be a destiny; for life
Lives in but little—but that little teems
With some one chance, the balance of all time:
A look—a word—and we are wholly changed.

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Re: Theodor Kirchner's Little Casino
« Reply #18 on: January 13, 2013, 05:07:26 AM »
Op.24 Still und Bewegt (1876)

As the title suggests, these eight pieces alternate between quiet contemplation and motion. Although unconfirmed, this opus is presumable inspired by Hölderlin’s romance of the same name. It is another fine set that is worthy of attention. In it the composer makes some interesting experiments with meter.

1. Lento. This intensely moving piece is permeated by a rising fifth that lifts the music up to its climax. Recommended.
2. Allegro. A brilliant mixture of 3/4 and 5/4 that has real drive. In the mid section a running motif is tossed about the piano, so that, although marked Meno mosso, the momentum is maintained and the repeat leads to a glorious ending.
3. Poco lento – an intensely contemplative C major. After stating the theme, Kirchner develops it with a running triplet accompaniment. The music drifts into stasis before those two periods are reinvented and we reach a quiet repose. A beautiful piece.
4. Allegro agitato (after two bars ‘ad lib’). The music surges forward with restless syncopation, concentrated entirely on the main idea. There are no repeats and the music arrives at a rapid conclusion. Taut and compact.
5. Andante con moto. Pieces like this one should never have been lost – Brahms didn’t compose a better one. Metrically it is highly irregular but the flow is so natural that the half bars and those with five crotchets (both unannounced) are scarcely noticeable. A warm feeling of longing pervades the music and builds into a passionate climax. Highly recommended. Deserves attention.
6. Un poco lento. Kirchner continues with another gorgeous gem. It begins with a narrative melody that is tossed between the parts – the prevalence of counterpoint in Kirchner’s music should be noted. The mid section presents the main idea in a ghostly manner, in thirds and distant keys. Again, highly recommended.
7. Cantabile. This is the most difficult piece in the set to understand. In many ways it is like a dream and there is not a four bar phrase to be found. Overlapping phrases of differing lengths follow each other giving a sense of formlessness.
8. Allegro vivace. The set is rounded of magnificently by this dynamic and upbeat number. The central part casts new light on the principal ideas and leads into an enhancement of the opening the material and a very conclusive coda. Arguably this is very Schumannesque in that composer's positive mode but it is still a wonderful piece. 
A day may be a destiny; for life
Lives in but little—but that little teems
With some one chance, the balance of all time:
A look—a word—and we are wholly changed.

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Re: Theodor Kirchner's Little Casino
« Reply #19 on: January 21, 2013, 08:39:24 AM »
Op.25 Nachtbilder (1877)

This was the work that first introduced me to Kirchner. I found it in the library and I was so impressed I bought the edition from Breitkopf & Härtel. As it remarks in the preface, this is generally regarded as the composer’s finest opus. Be that as it may, I think I understand how he failed to gain favour: his music falls between two stools. It is neither salon music nor music for the virtuoso. It is pure music, written for music’s sake. Kirchner was a worthy member of the Davidsbund. Titles such as ‘Nachtbilder’ are similar in nature to ‘French Suites’ and are merely suggestive of mood or style.
These pieces form a cycle and like all true cycles contains related incipits – the most obvious of which is three rising (or sometimes falling) notes.

1. Sehr lebendig und charakteristisch. The description ‘wolf’s glen scene’ seems to me rather archaic. With its sliding chromatics and hushed suspended chords, it would however make a suitable background to a horror movie. The attempt to lift the spirits with a rousing tune towards the end are drowned out by the voices of the night.
2. Leise und ruhig. A beautiful piece – one of the pearls of Romanticism. A series of reiterated notes form a background to an exquisite world of harmony and melody.
3. Allegro (unmutig). A turbulent outburst with the three-note motif constantly driving downward against a theme that includes its inverse. The mood eventually quietens, subsiding into a recollection of the previous piece but the fury returns (allmählich scheller und stärker) and leads to a stern conclusion.
4. Allegretto vivace. A lighter interlude, scherzo like in character but not in form.
5. Mesto. A funereal procession, whose music stretches across the whole keyboard and includes sometimes violent switching of dynamics. Inserted in this is a gorgeously rich elegy but the march resumes and continues to a chilling conclusion.
6. Sehr erregt. This short though immense piece is one of my favorites and it demonstrates the power of which Kirchner was capable. The three notes are prominent and even rise from the bottom A of the piano. Note the rich harmonies, such as Db,C,Ebb,Gb,Ab.
7. Allegro. The opening and closing sections, with their rapidly fluttering sextuplets resemble a mask to the central bacchanalia. Medtner’s ‘Danza sylvestris’ come to mind.
8. Ruhig, singend. Kirchner quotes Brahms here but the beautiful lyricism of the setting is all his own work and contrasts strongly with the almost spiteful bitterness of the mid-section. As is often the case, one has to be nifty about the keyboard here.
9.Risoluto. This tertiary dance movement is a much more human affair. The vigorous outer parts in F# minor surround a serene little landler in the major.
10. Moderato. The three rising notes are introduced immediately and their moment increases as a pulsating rhythm takes the music to a huge climax across four ranges of the piano. This begins again but in the end, all that remains is that rhythm, and then silence.
A day may be a destiny; for life
Lives in but little—but that little teems
With some one chance, the balance of all time:
A look—a word—and we are wholly changed.