Symphony No.4, Op.20
Monogramme Eine kleine Serenade für Orchester, Op.22
Ständchen für kleines Orchester, Op.16
Brandenburgisches Staatsorchester Frankfurt
Recorded 5-9 April 2005 in Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach-Konzerthalle, Frankfurt
Reviewed by: Colin Anderson
Reviewed: October 2006
CD No: CPO 777 175-2
Duration: 62 minutes
Eduard Erdmann (1896-1958), born in Riga of German nationality, is best remembered as a pianist – if he is remembered at all: two eminent dictionaries on music that came to hand do not include him.
Completed in 1951, Erdmann’s Symphony No.4 (his last) – which is dedicated to Hans Schmidt-Isserstedt, who conducted the 1954 premiere – begins darkly and suggests latent power; this ‘slow introduction’ is followed by a deft Allegretto, the invention distilled, the scoring lucid and soloistic. Erdmann’s organisation is formal in one sense yet capricious in another; a Schoenbergian strictness tempered by Bergian lyricism and with echoes of Mahler, the Ninth and Tenth Symphonies especially. Greater intensity informs the slow second movement, one cut short as a scherzo-like section intercedes – music of considerable incident and ingenuity – and which gives way, almost as abruptly, to a return to the Adagio. Whether concluding the movement with a reminiscence of the ‘scherzo’ quite works is something that future listens can determine – and this is most certainly music that one wants to return to.
The finale opens alluringly – suggestive of a night breeze wafting the scent of flowers; such a picturesque scene becomes entangled in a return to Erdmann’s rigorous if quixotic compositional methods, and there is much to beguile the listener as the music scurries and gathers itself for a (seemingly) satisfying culmination. What actually happens is more ambiguous and yet, in a single chord, the only possible outcome.
Unpublished and seemingly unperformed since the Hamburg premiere, Eduard Erdmann’s Symphony No.4 deserves to be much better known; this sympathetic, well-prepared and lucid-sounding first recording (second if one counts the tape of the first performance residing in North German Radio’s archive) gives just such an opportunity.
Monogramme was Erdmann’s last composition, completed in November 1955. In three short movements, this is a transparent work in every sense, with a delightful lightness and wit in the first movement, sad eloquence in the second, and parody and pathos in the finale, with dry humour having the last word. (There’s rather a rough edit at 4’14” in the last movement.)
The Serenade is from 1930 and again in three movements. Erdmann, it seems, had cause to regret the title (“not entirely fortunate”) – although that was with hindsight and in the light of “the Nazi period”. Serenade is a really fine piece, which makes recourse to popular forms (the waltz, for example) and shows Erdmann’s whimsical side, albeit tinged with regret at times, and with a compositional elegance that really deserves the widest currency.
Hopefully CPO has an Erdmann series lined up.