of Steve Jones
String Quintet in D Major, Op.9
For 2 Violins, 2 Violas & Cello
"In 1868, Friedrich Gernsheim's String Quintet in D Major, Op.9 was published. It is a work already in the new Romantic style and shows that the composer was abreast of the advances which had been made by Brahms. Gernsheim is clearly a master of form and able to create episodes of great beauty. Here is a work that will certainly be effective in the concert hall, but it is also a work which should not be missed by amateurs who will surely enjoy it tremendously. The opening movement, Allegro, immediately begins with a warm and very lyrical melody. The charming second theme is also lyrical but nonetheless provides a fine contrast with what has come before. The lovely second movement, Allegretto moderato, is a cross between an old-style minuet and an intermezzo. The trio section, molto vivace, provides a great surprise and contrast of the sort of which Cherubini uses in his quartets. Next comes a deeply felt Andante espressivo with a stormy middle section. The tonal beauty is magnificent. The finale, Allegro molto vivace e con fuoco, dispenses with the warm, lyrical melodies found in the preceding movements, and is primarily filled with rhythmically pronounced, fleet exciting themes which are highly effective."---the well-know chamber music critic Wilhelm Altman, writing in his Handbook for Chamber Music Players.
Friedrich Gernsheim (1839-1916) is a composer whose music was held in the highest regard by critics during his lifetime. No less an authority than Wilhelm Altmann, perhaps the most influential chamber music critic of all time, has written that Gernsheimís chamber music is poetic and of a high intellectual content. But Gernsheim had two misfortunes, which led to his music not obtaining the reputation it might have. The first was to be born within a decade of Brahms. A misfortune because, in what is surely an extraordinary phenomenon, virtually every composer in the German-speaking countries born within a decade either side of Brahms were so eclipsed by him that their reputation and music all but disappeared when that era was over. Names such as Rheinberger, Reinecke, Kiel, Bruch, Dessoff, and Herzogenberg, among many others, come to mind. The second misfortune was that being Jewish, his music was officially banned during the Nazi era, which insured that it would fall into oblivion. It is only now, close to a century after his death that it is being rediscovered with great delight.
Gernsheim, somewhat of a piano and violin virtuoso as a child, was eventually educated at the famous Leipzig Conservatory where he studied piano with Ignaz Moscheles and violin with Ferdinand David. After graduating, he continued his studies in Paris, getting to know Saint SaŽns, Lalo, Liszt and Rossini. Despite his admiration for France and the French, he returned to Germany and during the course of his life, he held academic and conducting positions in Cologne, Rotterdam and finally Berlin. He used his position as a conductor to advance the cause of Brahmsí music. The two, while not close friends, carried on a correspondence for many years during which it was clear that Brahms had considerable respect and admiration for Gernsheimís work. An accolade which was, in Brahmsí case, no mere flattery as Brahms only very rarely praised the works of other composers.
Here is proof that even early on Gernsheim was produce masterpieces of the chamber music literature which deserved to be placed in the permanent repertoire. Certainly professionals should present it in concert but amateurs will not want to miss out on the chance to play this great work.