Author Topic: Stephen Heller  (Read 20747 times)

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Offline BobsterLobster

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Re: Stephen Heller
« Reply #20 on: November 07, 2011, 06:49:02 PM »
Just listened to this:



after watching this thread, and I'm afraid that could well have been the most boring 1hour & 10minutes of my life.
IMO, very uninspired writing. If they were written as teaching aids, I feel very sorry for his pupils.

Offline Ten thumbs

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Re: Stephen Heller
« Reply #21 on: November 08, 2011, 12:04:39 PM »
Just listened to this:



after watching this thread, and I'm afraid that could well have been the most boring 1hour & 10minutes of my life.
IMO, very uninspired writing. If they were written as teaching aids, I feel very sorry for his pupils.

I haven't heard this recording so I can't comment on it. However, you can hardly deny the originality of Op.81 from a technical point of view. There's no need to feel sorry for us pianists. We've all been through it with better results than yourself.
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 BobsterLobster

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Re: Stephen Heller
« Reply #22 on: November 08, 2011, 12:15:27 PM »
I haven't heard this recording so I can't comment on it. However, you can hardly deny the originality of Op.81 from a technical point of view. There's no need to feel sorry for us pianists. We've all been through it with better results than yourself.

I see you're from Yorkshire too... I studied piano at Huddersfield with Benjamin Frith... one of the best recording pianists around IMO. Thank God he never gave me any of these pieces to study. Please enlighten me on what originality there is in these pieces?

Offline PaulSC

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Re: Stephen Heller
« Reply #23 on: November 08, 2011, 01:11:09 PM »
There's no need to feel sorry for us pianists. We've all been through it with better results than yourself.
All of us? Speak for yourself, Thumbs!
Musik ist ein unerschöpfliches Meer. — Joseph Riepel

Offline Ten thumbs

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Re: Stephen Heller
« Reply #24 on: November 08, 2011, 01:20:09 PM »
I see you're from Yorkshire too... I studied piano at Huddersfield with Benjamin Frith... one of the best recording pianists around IMO. Thank God he never gave me any of these pieces to study. Please enlighten me on what originality there is in these pieces?

I've just been playing through some of Op.81. It is full of passion and dramatic dynamic contrasts. Perhaps you aren't keen on such emotional music. Heller builds his music up from the repetition and development of motifs rather than from melody. I don't think you will find any precedent for his style. I've investigated quite a number of composers from the first half of the 18th century without finding it. Anyway this is not my own opinion alone.
I think what you need is someone like Benjamin Frith to let rip with it. You could try Ilona Prunyi.
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: Stephen Heller
« Reply #25 on: November 09, 2011, 04:37:50 AM »
One thing I have learned from the above is not to buy that recording, so thanks for that. If one is conditioned to expect big tunes and grand gestures from Romantic music then it is true that Heller's music will disappoint and that may be why he was relegated to the sideline of history. What is there is the poetry for which he was famed. It is a style that one might describe as stripped down, leaner and meaner Schumann combined with foretastes of what is generally known as Impressionism. Other influences one can trace are Weber, Chopin and probably Berlioz.
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: Stephen Heller
« Reply #26 on: November 10, 2011, 02:15:25 PM »
All of us? Speak for yourself, Thumbs!

I suppose not everybody enjoys poetry.
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: Stephen Heller
« Reply #27 on: November 10, 2011, 02:23:12 PM »
Op.95 Allegro Pastorale

Don't know anything about this one.

Op.96 Grande Etude de Concert

Well, Heller does attempt a big tune this time. Grande Etudes are not really my scene and I'm not intending to spend hours working on this one. At least it works up to a powerful ending instead of increasing cascades of pointless notes as was the fashion.

Op.97 12 Waltzes

This is a bit like Schubert brought into the Romantic era. Brahms had a go at the same thing and it all depends whether or not you're in the mood. They are clearly intended to be played as a cycle and are pleasant to play but less so for listening.
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: Stephen Heller
« Reply #28 on: November 14, 2011, 09:06:31 AM »
Op.98 Improvisata on a Theme of Schumann

This is based on a Schumann song from his Spanish Love Songs Op.138. 'Fluthenreichen Ebro'
It may have been in response to Schumann's death in 1856 - I haven't got an exact date of publication.

Following a partial arrangement of the song (marked Gleichsam Guitarre in the German edition) there is a more florid continuation followed by three improvisations and a coda. The style is Schumannesque but this was a style that the two composers shared in their earlier years so one could equally describe is as early-Helleresque.

Op.99 4 Fantaisie-Stucke

This is another hard to find opus. I discovered a second hand copy of one of them from Amazon and I'm very glad I did because it is one of the most beautiful little pieces in the whole piano repertoire. It is one of Augener's Perles Musicales, and in this case it really is a pearl. I don't know which number in the opus it is, possibly No.2, but it is in G flat major.

Those who question Heller's originality should think about what they mean. Does he copy Beethoven perhaps, or Schubert? I hardly think so. The other composers, ie Mendelssohn, Schumann, Chopin and Liszt were his contemporaries not his precursors and his mature style is distinct from theirs anyway. So what is it like? I rather suspect that we are dealing with mindless cant repeated parrot fashion. However, being boring is another matter. I don't find him so but then some are bored by Mahler, some by Wagner, some it seems by Mozart and others, dare I say it, by Bach. One thing it is, is full of ideas.
« Last Edit: December 29, 2011, 08:21:00 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: Stephen Heller
« Reply #29 on: November 17, 2011, 03:27:10 AM »
Op.100 2nd Canzonetta

Heller reaches his century with a piece that confirms his individuality. However, I can see some having difficulties with it because it is very centred around G. It begins in G minor and the central section and ending are in G major. There is, I think, an intention to create a pseudo-medieval sound, as of a troubadour. The major sections are quicker (vivo) and include bars of modal harmonies from which snatches of melody emerge. The whole piece does work but it needs very careful handling by the pianist.
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: Stephen Heller
« Reply #30 on: November 20, 2011, 02:54:18 PM »
Op. 101 Rêveries du promeneur solitaire

This is vintage Heller and is a very intense work of great musical density. Playing it is reminiscent of, say, playing one of Scriabin's single movement sonatas (I'm referring to the intensity, obviously, not the harmonies). The climactic passage at its centre is particularly superb. Here we have music of the future (for those not blinkered by considerations of tonality!).

A recording of Op.101 is on the CD of Marc Pantillon (8'43).
« Last Edit: December 29, 2011, 08:22:08 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: Stephen Heller
« Reply #31 on: November 22, 2011, 01:42:28 PM »
Op.102 Jagdstücke

This is another fine piece although being hunting music it is quite strident in places, even dissonant. I particularly like the development and the subtle variations to the material in the recapitulation.

Op.103 3rd Nocturne

I've covered this already. One of the best nocturnes ever composed.


I keep playing through some of the Op.81 Preludes. They really are rather addictive.
« Last Edit: December 29, 2011, 08:23:03 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: Stephen Heller
« Reply #32 on: November 27, 2011, 02:44:48 PM »
Op.104 Polonaise

This is a vigorous and finely constructed work but it can hardly be compared to Chopin at his best. The Eb minor central section adds good contrast but overall I'm not sure it adds a great deal to this genre. Worth an occasional hearing perhaps.
« Last Edit: December 29, 2011, 08:23:46 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: Stephen Heller
« Reply #33 on: November 30, 2011, 06:33:38 AM »
Op.105 3 Songs without Words

I must say that Heller's venture here into this genre is disappointing. All he gives are pretty tunes with very little scope. The first, it seems, could be by anyone: the second is more like Heller. The third is the best with its quirky rhythms and harmony - as a miniature it can at least match Alkan's Esquisses. Give me Fanny Hensel's great Eb Lied H-U 456 any day!
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: Stephen Heller
« Reply #34 on: December 09, 2011, 07:10:43 AM »
Op.106 Schäfer-Stücklein (Bergeries)

To be fair, Heller is not promising music with great emotional content. These are, as the title states, pastoral pieces.
The first is slow and static and relies on harmonic resonances. On the whole disappointing.
The second is a neat little miniature but little more.
The third is the best: a much more extended piece with a lovely flowing middle section. Definitely worth hearing or playing but not quite as radical as other works of this period.
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: Stephen Heller
« Reply #35 on: December 12, 2011, 02:46:57 AM »
Op.107 4 Laendler (sic)

I didn't approach this with great expectations but do not be deceived - you will find no shades of Schubert here.

The first seems innocent enough (Mässige Bewegung, indolent) but merely forms an introduction to what is a cycle, as indicated by the playing instruction for the second (Langsamer, tiefer gefärbt wieded Vorige). Here we enter a more chromatic world.
The third is the core of the work (Rasch, munter, aber mit Zartheit). The 'tenderness' of the chromatically meandering subject rises ultimately to a climax of late Lisztian intensity, which, as in Liszt, then fades to a potent simplicity.
After this the fourth is a sinecure. The tension relaxes ( Tempo giusto - Mit abwechselnd sanftem und ledhaftem Ausdruck) and we have a dance with all the sensuous fluidity of early Debussy - a very satisfying conclusion.
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: Stephen Heller
« Reply #36 on: December 16, 2011, 06:59:28 AM »
Op.108 4th Scherzo

I cannot at the moment get hold of this work. The previous third scherzo is Op. 57 and to quote Barbedette on both:

The Scherzo Fantastique (Op. 57), is of a less serene character. It answers well to its title, and contains some extremely original points. The whole of the first movement exhibits a rare knowledge of rhythm and some ravishing contrasts. The middle part is very weird, and in looking at the work as a whole we cannot but regret that it was not scored for full orchestra, for the capabilities of which it displays most ample and tempting material. The fourth Scherzo (Op. 108), is pianoforte music proper. It is lovely work, and may rival the best efforts of Chopin in its own way.

If this is so, it is surely wrong for it not to be in print.

Op.109 Herbstblätter (Autumn Leaves)

This is in two parts, the first (Allegro assai) is full of fluttering motifs and is pure Heller. After the exposition, the material is placed in new contexts and again after the varied recapitulation there is a long coda containing further reinterpretation.
The second part (Andante tenero) is more static. It is one of Heller's picture pieces in which the basic phrases are placed like fallen leaves varied in dynamics, key. pitch, duration and detail. All this is clear enough in performance but I don't know how it comes over to the listener and I know of no recording. It seems that sometimes the shock of the new falls on deaf ears!
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: Stephen Heller
« Reply #37 on: December 18, 2011, 12:33:09 PM »
Op.110 Ein grosses Albumblatt und ein kleines

I find this title rather amusing, almost post-modern in fact. Presumably these pieces were for an album that Frau Louise Damcke  was gathering and Heller had no other title in mind for them.

In particular, the big album leaf is a very fine piece (in 3/4 time), full of vitality and with a strongly rhythmic middle section ( It needs to be taken allegro vivo as indicated, without restraint).
The small album leaf is much more poetic with varying tempo and feeling. However, the two do go together as a pair quite successfully.
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: Stephen Heller
« Reply #38 on: December 19, 2011, 06:56:15 AM »
Op. 111 Morceaux de Ballet
  Pas Noble - Intermède
  Pantomime - Couplets dansés

Another unknown opus but fortunately I already have plenty to go at.

Op.112 Humoreske (Caprice humoristique)

This is a big bold piece and you'll either love it or hate it: definitely composed in BLOCK CAPITALS! In the central section, Heller shows us for once his Hungarian origin. In the coda he has fun playing with his material before finally allowing the music to end in a blaze of C major.
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: Stephen Heller
« Reply #39 on: December 22, 2011, 12:43:08 PM »
Op.113 Fantaisie-Caprice

It is perhaps surprising that Heller follows Op.112 with another fast piece in 3/4 time and in C major. Again it is big and bold but, in place of the contrasting middle section, there is development that provides variety and continues even through the recapitulation into a long coda that includes a 'quasi cadenza'.
The answer seems to lie in the dedication, which is:

a mon ami Monsieur Hector Berlioz Membre de l'Institut Officier de la Legion d'Honneur etc etc etc

In spite of my initial reservations, I'm beginning to find this piece extremely compelling and surely more original than anything Brahms produced for the piano. All I can say is that those who find this music dry dull and boring must have very strange tastes in music, very strange indeed!

. . .and, having recently touched on the weird and wonderful, or as it is titled, the fantastique, I'm going to break off to look at Op.57 next.
« Last Edit: December 29, 2011, 08:28:11 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.