Frank Beermann / NDR Radio Philharmonic Orchestra

Heinrich von Herzogenberg: Symphonies 1 & 2

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If the name Heinrich von Herzogenberg is not yet familiar, it soon will be, due to the growing revival of his music and the increasing number of recordings made since the 1990s, notably in Germany. But this late nineteenth century composer's reputation may only be minimally enhanced by all the attention that's being paid to his oeuvre; for the more exposure it receives, the more people will come to the conclusion that Herzogenberg's works are far too imitative of his contemporaries. Though obviously well-crafted and earnest, his music is too much a product of its time and environment, and the familiar styles of Robert Schumann and Johannes Brahms dominate Herzogenberg's music so strongly that little of his own personality shines through. If the Symphony No. 1 in C minor, Op. 50, and the Symphony No. 2 in B flat major, Op. 70, had been claimed as long-lost symphonies by either of those two Romantic masters, many listeners could have been fooled, so close are elements of Herzogenberg's symphonic rhetoric, melodic style, and orchestration to theirs. Yet because we know these works are Herzogenberg's, they may hold less interest because they are so plainly derivative, and their few signs of originality -- such as the unusual harmonies and modulations in his whimsical Scherzo movements -- might pass by without much notice. Still, there is a better than fair chance that these two neglected works will eventually find a place in the repertoire, thanks to the engaging performances by Frank Beermann and the NDR Radiophilharmonie. A better case for these symphonies can't be imagined, especially because the interpretations are coherent and the playing is buoyant and vital, even when the music isn't all that interesting. CPO's reproduction is first-rate, with a full-bodied ensemble sound and natural resonance.

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