Ferdinand Hiller Chamber Works Rescued from Obscurity
Ferdinand Hiller definitely qualifies as a forgotten composer. During his lifetime he was a sought-after piano virtuoso. He was a prolific composer (over 450 works). Most of his works were performed, and quite a few were performed frequently.
Hiller had rock-solid credentials. He was protege of Johann Nepomuk Hummel. He visited (with Hummel) Beethoven during his final days. He heard Franz Schubert and Johan Michael Vogel premier Die Winterreise.
As a performer, he was admired by Franz Liszt. His pupils include Max Bruch and Englebert Humperdinck.
And yet, within a few years after his death in 1885, Hiller’s music virtually disappeared from performance and publication. The current theory is that tastes changed. His music was simply considered too old-fashioned.
Of course, almost 150 years later, even the New German School that supplanted it is now old-fashioned. And so we can appreciate Hiller’s music for what it is, rather than dismiss it for what it is not.
This release presents two chamber works by Hiller. Both were composed in the early 1870s. The Piano Quartet No. 3 in A minor and the Piano Quintet in G major are great introductions to Hiller. They’re both substantial works, each running about 40 minutes.
Hiller was a friend of Mendelssohn, and there’s a Mendelssohnian lightness to these works. Hiller develops his themes skillfully. He had studied Bach and was one of the first Romantic pianists to play his music in a recital. But counterpoint is simply a means to an end for Hiller.
What’s most important is that the theme evolves in a logical and emotionally satisfying fashion. And Hiller does that again and again.
Pianist Oliver Trindl is in top form. A good thing, because piano virtuoso Hiller wrote some challenging piano parts. The Minguet Quartett has a seamless ensemble blend. And their collaboration with Trindl is flawless.
These are spirited performances indeed! These works were a pleasure to listen to. Solid chamber music delivered with elan.
Ferdinand Hiller: Piano Quartet Op. 133, Piano Quintet Op.156
Oliver Triendl, piano; Minguet Quartett