Woodland Idyll--Three Fantasy Pieces for Piano Trio
Friedrich Koch (1862-1927) was born in Berlin and studied cello with Robert Hausmann and composition with Woldemar Bargiel at the famous Hochschule für Musik. He played cello in the Royal Orchestra of Berlin, but eventually became a professor of composition, serving at several conservatories in Berlin. His compositions, often based on folk melodies, gained him considerable recognition and acclaim during his lifetime. Among his most popular works were his character pieces, generally for one instrument and piano. His two best known pieces of chamber music were his string trio for which he won the Mendelssohn Prize and his Three Fantasy Pieces--The Woodland Idyll--for Piano Trio, Op.20, which was frequently programmed well into the 1930's.
The Woodland Idyll (Wald-Idyll) was composed in 1902 and consists of three emotive character pieces written in the late Romantic style. The first, Mondandacht or Moonlight Reverie, transports us to a pale, moonlit atmosphere of calm. Suddenly there is agitation (our sound-bite begins just before this) which disturbs the tranquility. Perhaps it is meant to evoke a wayfarer who is deep in thought and brings back turbulent memories. The second piece, Nixenpuk or Phantom Spirits, conjures up the spooky night sounds of the forest. The cello is often asked to play col legno (on the bow stick). Brief episodes of pizzicato and staccato as well as the scurrying passages in the piano, complete this haunted picture. The final piece, Waldrauschen or Forest Murmurs, portrays the rustling unease of the forest before a storm. Eventually the storm breaks and then dies away.
It is a pity this wonderful music, full of evocative tone color with fine part-writing, has fallen by the wayside. It would make a wonderful addition to the repertoire and any one of these pieces would be an excellent encore. Not to be missed by amateurs as well.