Friedrich Gernsheim

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Steve Jones

String Quartet No.1 in c minor, Op.25

"Friedrich Gernsheim was never given to writing for the sake of writing and you will rarely, if ever, find unnecessary notes or passages that serve as mere filler. His goal was to create works of art in which one bar followed the other inevitably, and the whole was to form a unity in which no phrase should be associated with another except of set purpose. His output is distinguished by nobility of aim, well-defined, beautiful and assured proportions and complete mastery of form. His quartets, which certainly belong in the concert hall, present no unusual technical difficulties and can be strongly recommended to amateur players."---Wilhelm Altmann, famed chamber music critic.


Friedrich Gernsheim (1839-1916) is a composer whose music was held in the highest regard by his colleagues and critics during his lifetime. Brahms and Max Bruch to name but two shared Altmann's high regard. 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 their 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. His 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. Writing in his Handbook for String Quartet Players, Wilhelm Altmann has this to say about Gernsheim's String Quartet No.1:


ďGernsheim's First Quartet, dates from 1871. The lyrical main theme is extraordinarily beautiful and makes an even deeper impression because of his use of rhythm. The second movement, an Andante con moto, is a lament, a song without words. The third movement, Allegro, is a scherzo which which captivates by means of its rhythm, while melody of the trio section brings a sense of urgency. The climax of the quartet is its finale, subtitled Rondo all'Ongarese--Allegro molto vivace. In true Hungarian style, Gernsheim alters the tempo from slow to presto to prestissimo with great effect. All of the themes are typically Hungarian and provide a fine contrast with each other."


We have reprinted the first and only edition, adding rehearsal letters and correcting several mistakes. This quartet, like his other four, all deserves your serious consideration. We believe you will not be disappointed.


Parts: $24.95


Parts & Score: $31.95




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