Indefatigable in their quest to bring us fresh and wonderful music, cpo has done it again with this fascinating release of two symphonies by German composer Friedrich Gernsheim (1839-1916). The label’s strong suit has been its recordings of instrumental and orchestral music from the classical through post-romantic periods. This release of Gernsheim’s symphonies nos. 1 and 3 is yet another feather in cpo’s cap, which by now must resemble an Indian headdress! The Philharmonisches Staatsorchester Mainz under principal conductor Hermann Bäumer provide performances with all the sweep and magnificence the music deserves.
Gernsheim was a child prodigy who at the age of thirteen entered the Leipzig Conservatory becoming the youngest student at that prestigious school. He was a celebrated concert pianist and later in life, a respected conductor who held posts in Saarbrücken and Rotterdam. He also held teaching positions at conservatories in Cologne and Berlin, sharing company with many of the most eminent musical personalities of his time including Liszt, Rossini, Saint-Saëns and Brahms. A prolific composer, Gernsheim wrote in virtually every form with an emphasis on chamber and orchestral music. In all, Gernsheim wrote four symphonies between 1875 and 1896. The First and Third on this disc come from 1875 and 1888 respectively.
Gernsheim was an extensively schooled musician; his music is meticulously constructed and musically very rewarding. The First Symphony has a Brahmsian feeling to it and shows the influence of Schumann and Mendelssohn. It should be noted here that Gernsheim’s First Symphony was written before the publication of Brahms’ First Symphony. A close friend of his, Brahms’ influence will become evident in Gernsheim’s Third Symphony. You can listen to the third movement Scherzo of Gernsheim’s Symphony No. 1 in the video that appears to the right, and to the final movement of that same symphony in the video below (the later clip is not taken from this disc). I’m going to assume that cpo will bring us the other two Gernsheim symphonies shortly and hope they don’t stop there – there are two violin concertos, and one each for piano and cello as well as a large body of chamber music which likely deserve our attention as well.
Friedrich Gernsheim’s life was European through and through. Born in Worms in 1839, this descendant of Michael Gernsheim, the city’s last Jewish bishop, became the Leipzig Conservatory’s youngest pupil when he enrolled there at the age of thirteen. His further musical education took him to Paris. At the then center of the European music world he enjoyed daily contact with the most famous musical personalities of the time: Liszt, Saint-Saëns, Rossini, and Rubinstein. At the music festivals in Mainz and Cologne he expanded his circle of friends to include Brahms, Clara Schumann, and Max Bruch. Gernsheim’s further career stations included the post of city music director in Saarbrücken, six years as a professor and conductor in Cologne, and Rotterdam, where he lived for almost twenty years while also going on concert tours first and foremost to promote the music of his friend Brahms. He spent the last fifteen years of his life in Berlin, where he died in 1916. His wide travels are reflected in his magnificent four symphonies, the first and third of which we are releasing this month. Great, dramatic romantic music awaits you!
Friedrich Gernsheim, composer
Friedrich Gernsheim (1839 – 1916) was a German composer, conductor and pianist. Gernsheim was a prolific composer, especially of orchestral, chamber and instrumental music, and songs. Some of his works tend to Jewish subject-matter, notably the Third Symphony on the legend of the Song of Miriam. His earlier works show the influence of Schumann, and from 1868, when he first became friendly with Brahms.
Hermann Bäumer, conductor
Born in Bielefeld, Hermann Bäumer began to play the piano at the age of six. Hermann Bäumer has also conducted orchestras like the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie of Bremen, the Radio Symphony Orchestra of Oslo and the Bamberg Symphony Orchestra and has performed at music festivals. Hermann Bäumer is moreover particularly esteemed throughout Germany for his work with young people in collaboration with youth orchestras.
Philharmonic Orchestra of the State Theatre of Mainz
The Philharmonic Orchestra of the State Theatre of Mainz leads cultural life in the town of Mainz for over 125 years. Its history begins in 1876, when the mayor Franz Schott founded a town orchestra, that could soon boast of a long list of well known visiting conductors: Richard Strauss, Hans Pfitzner, Hans Rosbaud, Gustav Mahler, Karl Schuricht, Erich Kleiber, Hans Knappertsbusch and Eugen Jochum.