Pál Hermann Complete Surviving Music Vol. 2 ensures legacy

Volume One in this series featured Pál Hermann’s orchestral works. This volume presents his surviving chamber and instrumental music.

“Surviving” is the operative word in this series. Pál Hermann (1902-1944) was one of the foremost cellists of the 1930s. This Hungarian artist was also an innovative composer. He had studied with both  Béla Bartók and Zoltán Kodály. And like his teachers, Hermann’s music drew inspiration from Hungarian folk music.

Hermann was also a cello virtuoso. Though he was busy concertizing throughout Europe, he made very few recordings. None survived the Second World War, so we don’t know what his playing sounded like. And Hermann himself didn’t survive the war.

Hermann was Jewish, and the rise of the Nazis derailed his career. As German armies swept across Europe, Hermann was trapped on the continent. He was arrested in 1944 and died en route to an Estonian concentration camp.

Most of Hermann’s works were unpublished. It’s not clear what may have been lost during the chaos of the war.

The compositions presented here show some Bartokian influence. Hermann’s string-writing incorporates some of the techniques Bartok developed. Hermann’s melodies are more lyrical than Bartok’s though.

The Grand Duos for violin and cello, for example, harken back to late post-Romanticism. The remarkable Suite for Solo Violin pushes the limits of technique. But even here Hermann’s natural lyrism wins out.

The music here is intimate and beautifully crafted. The performers play with masterful precision — and with musicality. They let Hermann’s music sing.

So little of this artist’s legacy survived. But I’m grateful some of it did. And especially grateful to Toccata Classics for presenting it to the world.

Pál Hermann: Complete Surviving Music, Volume Two
Chamber and Instrumental Music
Marko Komonko, violin; Thodore Kuchar, viola; Denys Lytvynenko, cello; Myroslav Drahan, piano
Toccata Classics TOCC 0443

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