Ignaz Brüll – Orchestral Works; Brahms’ Friend in the Spotlight

Moravian composer Ignaz Brüll (1846-1907) moved to Vienna in 1856. He was an accomplished composer and pianist and was well-known for both talents. Brüll was a close friend of Brahms. Brahms’ symphonies were often first heard in two-piano arrangements — with Brahms and Brüll at the keyboards.

Although quite successful during his lifetime, his music declined in popularity after his death. Because of his Jewish background, the Nazis tried to erase Brüll from music history altogether. Only recently has his music enjoyed renewed interest and performances.

So what’s it like? This adventurous collection from Cameo gives a fair representation. The shorter works are perhaps the most successful. The “Macbeth” Overture of 1884 is a thrilling eight-minute work that conveys the turbulent nature of the drama.

The Serenade No. 1 Op.29 was Brüll’s first hit (as it were). This 1877 work is chock-full of appealing melodies, orchestrated in light textures. It reminded me somewhat of Mendelssohn’s music.

The second serenade in E-flat major is equally delightful. The harmonies are a little thicker than the first. But that hint of Mendelssohn remains. keeping the music light and charming.

The large-scale works show some Brahmsian influence, I think. Although that influence is more along the lines of structure, rather than sound. Brüll’s Symphony in E minor is laid out in proper four-movement form. Brüll uses his material effectively, developing ideas in logical, easy-to-follow lines.

For me, the best work was the Violin Concerto. It was written for Johann Lauterbach, who must have been a ferocious talent, judging by the solo part. While there are plenty of fireworks, there’s also some solid music-making here, too. The slow movement is so poignantly beautiful, I’m surprised it’s not played more often.

Violinist Ilya Hoffmann delivers a wonderful performance. His playing has an expressiveness to it that’s pure Romanticism. His performance of the middle movements matches the beauty of the music. And that’s saying something.

Both the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra and the Belarusian State Symphony perform well. The audience for the BSS was a little noisy, but not terribly so.

An excellent collection of an overlooked composer. And, judging by the quality of the compositions, an unjustly overlooked one at that.

Ignaz Brüll: Orchestral Works
Overture “Macbeth,” Serenades Nos. 1 and 2, Violin Concerto, Symphony in E minor
Ilya Hoffmann, violin; Malta Philharmonic Orchestra; Belarusian State Symphony Orchestra; Marius Stravinsky, Michael Laus, conductors
Cameo Classics CC9103

2 CD Set

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