Orchestral Works II/ Graener

March 31, 2015

graener symphony in d minor 001


Paul Graener (1872-1944) had no sooner received his British citizenship in 1909 when he relocated to Vienna with his wife and two children where he became acquainted with some of the leading musical figures including the head of the Universal Publishing house Emil Hertzka. Two years later he was offered the position of director of the Mozarteum in 1911 which made another move this time to Salzburg necessary. Excited by the opportunity Graener set out to make changes such as a preview before the performance and the result was a renewed interest. His symphony in d minor “Schmied Schmerz” (Sorrow the blacksmith) was the premiere work which he was able to conduct himself on February 14, 1912. The result was a huge success so much so he gave repeat performances. In addition the work featured original art work which enticed Bruno Cassirer’s firm to publish it. With nothing but good and positive why is this work today totally neglected as well as anything from this composer? Did the fact that Graener accepted a position with the Nazi party influence this lack of interest?

Composed in 1911 on Lake Fuschl in Salzkammergut this work was not dedicated to his lost son as many pieces were around this time of his life but the overall melancholy  permeates the first movement as one would except from a D minor symphony. The loss of his son weighed quite heavy on his heart but eventually blossomed Graener into becoming a better composer. The beginning, a larghetto, is strings only offering a melody which will be used in the first part of the movement as it is passed on to the clarinet, contrabassoon, trumpet, french horn, and finally a solo violin. The orchestra quiets to a ppp but is followed by a burst of agitated activity from the strings (allegro) followed by a calling from the brass who double tongue. This was a favorite technique from Bruckner and the symphony is scored for extra brass. The loud timpani beat signals the continuing of the main melody to a loud conclusion with gong and timpani. The second movement, an adagio, completely changes the mood of the work by an introduction of a new melody from the English Horn which is then passed on to the clarinet and continues to the strings. It is a spring like theme in a major key that is majestic and mournful. This adagio is one of the better ones I’ve heard. The third and last movement, an allegro energico in a major key mimics the anvil blows from the blacksmith. Graener does a fine job with this movement bringing the movement back around to where it began a larghetto. Repeated listens will enhance your enjoyment of this work.

From The Realm of Pan, op. 22 was a four movement piano piece written in 1906 while Graener was in London that was reorchestrated fourteen years later for orchestra. It depicts Pan in musical imagery, dance, and feelings. It opens with a melancholy (Graener says magical, silvery, twilight mood) theme. The second part like the first is also a slow tempo and one of reflection. In the third one can hear some of the influences that Debussy and perhaps Dukas had on him. The final movement is a majestic one with horns calling out and a solo cello leading to a fine conclusion. It is a fifteen minute work that deserves your attention.

Prinz Eugen, op. 108

A sixteen minute series of variations written in 1939 that was used by Goebbel’s before he gave his final speech. It has the sound and feel of a military piece with snare drum, brass calling out, troops marching, and just a general feel of victory in the air, likely exactly what he was told to write, propaganda, which he succeeded.

Paul Graener is a new discovery for me like I talked about in my first review of his orchestral material. This volume enhances my feelings further.

Track Listing:

1…. Symphony in D minor, op. 39 “Schmied Schmerz” (32:34)

4…. From the Realm of Pan, op. 22 (15:17)

8…. Prinz Eugen, op. 108 (16:06)

Total Time 64:21

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