Heinrich Hofmann: Octet, Op. 80; Serenade, Op. 65; Sextett, Op. 25 / Berolina Ensemble

I’ve had for a little while now in my ‘yes’ stack of CDs to recommend here on Expedition Audio this very fine MD&G; recording of chamber music by one Heinrich Hofmann, beautifully performed by the Berolina Ensemble. Digging a little deeper into that same pile, I discovered I also have a recording of some symphonic works by Hofmann (although I have to admit, it just dawned on me the two albums are of music by the same composer). So, right after this recommendation, I’ll review another disc devoted to Hofmann, his orchestral music. Another cool thing is, as it turns out, these are the only two recordings available devoted entirely to the music of Heinrich Hofmann!

Heinrich Karl Johann Hofmann (1842-1902) was a German composer who began his career as a pianist. In 1869, after the success of his one act comedy Cartouche, he began to spend more of his time composing. During his lifetime, he was well known and respected, and his music was frequently performed. He worked in a variety of genres, producing primarily songs, music for chorus and piano pieces, as well as operas, orchestral works and chamber music. This CD contains three of his chamber works, the Octet Op. 80, Serenade Op. 65 and Sextet Op. 25.

Listening to these pieces reveals Hofmann as a traditionalist; his music is tasteful and refined, characterized by formal clarity, a natural simplicity and an ingratiating charm. All of this is immediately apparent in the sample I have in the right sidebar for you to hear. It’s the third movement Govotte from the Octet Op. 80 for flute, clarinet, horn, bassoon, 2 violins, viola and cello, and is quite irresistible.

The very generous 78 minute program is performed with impeccable technique and musicality by the Berolina Ensemble. This group of young Berlin musicians is dedicated to bringing to light, deserving music of the late Classical and Romantic eras which has fallen into obscurity. They’ve scored a hit with this release, beautifully recorded by the audiophile MD&G; label, making it an absolute success on all levels.

Album Overview

Heinrich Hofmann (1842-1902) was a productive composer, hugely famous in Germany and England for his symphony and Melusine cantata – the latter performed more than 1,500 times in Germany, England & USA.

The notes writer counts him fortunate to have died young, saving him from seeing his works rapidly disappear from the repertoire “an experience which darkened the latter years of, say, Max Bruch (1838-1920)” !

Hofmann’s chamber music catalogue lacks any string quartet and this disc is for unusual combinations, with instrumentation often original. The Octet for Flute, Clarinet, Horn, Bassoon, Two Violins, Viola, and Violoncello and Serenade for Flute and String Quintet are interesting, the latter with marked a fascinating contrast between virtuoso flute parts and intimate string parts. The string sextet less successful, its textures too “bottom heavy” to my taste.

Of special interest is the Berolina Ensemble, a mixed ensemble inspired by our English Melos Ensemble, which from 1950 led me to become interested in exploring unknown chamber music. Their successors have included the London Sinfonietta and Nash Ensemble. -Peter Grahame Woolf Source: www.musicalpointers.co.uk


Heinrich Hofmann

Heinrich Karl Johann Hofmann (13 January 1842, Berlin – 16 July 1902, Groß-Tabarz, present-day Thuringia) was a German composer and pianist. He was a pupil of Theodor Kullak, Eduard Grell, Siegfried Dehn and Richard Wüerst. His Frithjof Symphony (1874)… was one of the most frequently performed orchestral works in Germany during the late 19th century. In addition to orchestral music, he also wrote several operas, somelieder, choral music, and works for solo piano. After his death, his music fell largely into obscurity.


Berolina Ensemble

The [award winning] Berolina Ensemble founded by violinist David Gorol 2009, brings together young artists who can already look back on an impressive career to a remarkable chamber music ensemble in the heart of Berlin, whose versatility is unmatched.

Franziska Dallmann, flute; Friederike Roth, clarinet; Justus Mache, bassoon; Maciej Baranowski, horn; David Gorol & John Doig, violin; Laura Mohr & Barbara Buntrock, viola; Lillia Keyes & Valentin Priebus, violoncello; Rolf Jansen, double bass



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