Hermann Graedener Violin Concertos make the grade

This is what I like about Toccata Classics. They don’t just do a single release of a composer I’ve never heard of — they do a whole series. And their instincts are usually spot on.

In this case, the composer is Hermann Graedener (1844-1929). In his early years, he was a colleague and friend of Johannes Brahms. After both men moved to Vienna, they drifted apart. But Graedener continued to admire Brahms’s music.

Austrian music theorist Heinrich Schenker characterized one of Graedener’s works as “wholesale, huge richness.” That’s a fair assessment of these works, too.

The Violin Concerto No. 1 is full of rich harmonies. The melodies given the solo violin struck me as somewhat sweet as well. Not overly sentimental, though. My impression was that this concerto was emotionally reserved (compared to other late-Romantic concertos). The breezy finale was charming, though, as it zipped along to the closing cadence.

Graedener’s 1914 Violin Concerto No. 2 had a much different character. It wasn’t just that it was in a minor key, either. The work seemed bigger, especially the heroic-sounding first movement. The concerto also had an urgency to it that the first concerto lacked.

Violinist Karen Bentley Pollick delivers some fine performances here. Her violin’s warm, clear tone added beauty to the lyrical passages — of which there are many. And she ably handled the technical challenges — especially those of the second concerto.

From what I could discover, Graedner wrote two cello concertos, and two symphonies (as well as some chamber music). I’m guessing there will be at least two more volumes in this series. I’m all ears.

Hermann Graedener: Orchestral Music Volume One
Violin Concerto No 1 in D major, Op. 22
Violin Concerto No. 2 in D minor, Op. 41
Karen Bentley Pollick, violin
National Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine; Gottfried Rabl, conductor
Toccata Classics

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