Harald Genzmer Concertos – Zestful, Artful, and Comprehensible

German composer Harald Genzmer had a philosophy. “Music should be zestful, artful and comprehensible. As practicable, it may win over the interpreter, and then the listener as graspable.” The three concertos in this release, spanning 60 years, show Grenzmer remained true to his ideal.

In 1938 Genzmer had just completed his studies with Paul Hindemith. His Concerto for Piano and Orchestra No. 1 bears traces of Hindemith. It’s written in a post-romantic style that still leans towards tonality.

The concerto an elegantly structured work that’s easy to follow. In this work, Genmzer seems more playful than his teacher. There are some jazz elements woven into the piano part. The work has a jazzy, light-hearted feel to it. Perhaps Genzmer would call it zestful.

The Concerto for Cello and Orchestra was completed in 1950. And while the tenets of Genzmer’s philosophy are still there, they’re expressed in a more mature fashion. The work is darker and more serious than the pre-war piano concerto. Genzmer’s language, though still tonal, has more chromatic elements in it. At times I was reminded of Stravinsky and Bartok.

Genzmer wrote the Concerto for Trombone and Orchestra when he was 90. His musical language is stripped down to its bare essentials. The work has a tight focus to it. I sensed that every note is there for a reason, and it’s doing double duty. Still, it is a tonal composition, and is both “artful and comprehensible.”

The Rundfunk Sinfonieorchester Berlin, directed by Ariane Matiakh, deliver straightforward, no-nonsense performances. In a way, the performers let Genzmer’s music speak for itself. And it does just fine.

Genzmer’s music is always listener-friendly, but never pandering. He’s a composer that has something to say, and want to make sure what he says is understood. Did he succeed? I think “graspable” may be an understatement.

Harald Genzmer: Piano Concerto, Cello Concerto, Trombone Concerto
Oliver Triendl, piano; Patrick Demenga, cello, Jorgen van Rijen, trombone
Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin; Ariane Matiakh, conductor
Capriccio C5330

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