Unsung Composers

The Music => Composers and Music => Topic started by: eschiss1 on Friday 12 March 2010, 06:39

Title: Fritz Brun
Post by: eschiss1 on Friday 12 March 2010, 06:39
Listened today to the 2nd symphony (1911) of this Swiss composer - born Lucerne 1878, died 1959 Grosshochstetten - for the first time.

(I think I recall beginning his en-Wikipedia article, but I hadn't heard anything of his until now.) It was on BBC Radio 3 last week (http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00r2lk9 (http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00r2lk9)) (Kitajenko conducting Berne Symphony).  In the 2nd symphony I hear something of Brahms (possibly the Brahms of serenade no. 2), maybe Dvorak, maybe Strauss or Bruckner; the slow movement's ending is impressively still - there's a lot to be said about this 40-minute work and really I'm still digesting it :) I do hope to hear more of his music and am glad more has been recorded. The 5th symphony of 1929 with its opening Chaconne has always sounded interesting to me.
Glad to have heard his music finally.
(Briefly see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fritz_Brun (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fritz_Brun))
Anyone familiar with the other symphonies, the concertos, the string quartets, other works? Heard the other recordings, know of ones in progress? Opinions? Thanks-
Eric
Title: Re: Fritz Brun
Post by: petershott@btinternet.com on Friday 12 March 2010, 09:21
Fritz Brun seems to be becoming available (slowly!) in recordings. Thus far Adriano with a Moscow based orchestra have been his sole advocates.

Symphony 3 was issued by Sterling (CDS1059-2), but others have come out on Guild. First, Symphony 9 (GMCD7396), and later Symphonies 5 and 10 (GMCD7320). I guess Guild, being Swiss based, are keen to incorporate Brun in their portfolio of recordings. Guild have also released Symphony 8, with Variations on a Theme for Strings & Piano, but this is a 'historical' recording of 1946 - which I have not heard.

Hopefully the broadcast of Symphony 2 might find its way onto a CD soon?

So far as I know there have been no other recordings of Brun. Maybe Guild aspire to one day have all 10 symphonies. There are apparently also two concertos (one for piano, another for cello) and two string quartets. Would be interesting to know what they are like.

I confess I don't quite know what to make of Brun. For starters, the performances (and quality of recordings) of the symphonies by Adriano would seem to be excellent. (Ignore the prejudiced rantings by Hurwitz against both performances and recordings on his site). Occasional fluffs to be sure (unfamiliar stuff and inadequate rehearsal time?), but these can be no more than minor. There are some deeply impressive episodes in the symphonies I've heard, especially in slow movements. Set against that, it is often difficult to identify where the music is going: it seems disjointed, clumsy, and prone to a ramble and there seems a lack of symphonic rigour. (A very different composer, but I find the same kind of awkwardness, disjointedness, along with some superb moments in the symphonies of Havergal Brian). I read somewhere that Brun's personality was a curious mixture of the gruff and the light-hearted, so maybe this same combination of qualities is present in the music!

Possibly the fault is mine: on the one hand I'd like to persevere with the music (and certainly want to hear more Brun); on the other hand I don't somehow rush to the CD player with it. There are also a good number of solemn and portentous statements by Brun in writing about the symphonies about God, Destiny, Death, The Meaning of Life etc. At least R Strauss spared us such things and got on with the job of composing rich, self-indulgent and wonderfully orchestrated music!

I join with Eric in wanting to know what others make of this music. As for myself, perhaps I just haven't yet found the cement that binds it all together.

Peter
Title: Re: Fritz Brun Symphony no2 in B flat
Post by: Marcus on Friday 12 March 2010, 10:55
Fritz Brun's Symphony no2 is available on the Gall Label #838 (was Gallo), and is available from Archiv USA, HB Direct & JPC.
I have this recording, and it is an impressive work. The Lucerne S.O. is conducted by Olaf Henzold.
Also on the disc is the Siegfried Idyll by Wagner & the Double Bass Concerto (1935) by Joseph Lauber (1864-1952)
Marcus.
Title: Re: Fritz Brun
Post by: Alan Howe on Friday 12 March 2010, 12:57
I find No.2 very convincing, if somewhat derivative in a post-Brahmsian sort of way, but No.3 is a pretty dour piece to my way of thinking. Unrelieved gloom and doom. However, I was probably in an unreceptive mood...
Title: Re: Fritz Brun
Post by: Mark Thomas on Friday 12 March 2010, 16:27
Spurred on by this thread, I've just finished reacquainting myself with No.5 and I think that Peter is spot on. It's all very episodic and uneven. Not as hard work as it could have been, because after a while I gave up trying to figure out what he was up to and just listened to the music, rather than trying to divine what was behind it.
Title: Re: Fritz Brun
Post by: Alan Howe on Friday 12 March 2010, 20:40
Listening again to Brun 2, it's obvious that the idiom is thoroughly permeated with Brahms, although, equally obviously, it is music from a later period. The difference in idiom between No.2 and No.3 is enormous. No.3 begins like some enormous stuttering juggernaut, full of angst and striving, but I can't say that the experience is all that interesting really - there's just far too much unrelieved gloom for me, and the lyrical passages simply go nowhere - and then they stop! And it's long - 61 minutes!

No, if it's to be music of a post-Brahmsian type, let it be Wilhelm Berger! His Symphony No.2 is both obviously indebted to the great Austro-German symphonic tradition and yet also thoroughly personal - and memorable.
Title: Re: Fritz Brun
Post by: petershott@btinternet.com on Friday 12 March 2010, 21:35
Argh, no desire to recreate the mini-fiasco we had about Olsen a few weeks ago, but I wonder if Alan is referring to the German Wilhelm Berger or the Swedish Wilhelm Peterson-Berger? Both are late 19th / early 20th century and thus post-Brahms.

From what I've read of the former, I guess the reference is to (plain) Wilhelm Berger. He appears a thoroughly deserving unsung (oops, of course I mean precisely the opposite!), but, alas, I've never heard a note of his. Are there available recordings, the appetite having already been sufficiently whetted?

As for Peterson-Berger, I've found all 5 symphonies (plus a glorious violin concerto) marvellous stuff. Impressive, often quite beautiful, and truly memorable. Yes, maybe a bit backward looking - but then so is the present writer. And neither is the worse for it!

And to get back in-thread, the contrast with poor old Brun is obvious. Peterson-Berger's music flows quite wonderfully. In comparison, and no offence intended to the memory of Brun, I cannot help wondering if Brun had severe problems with his digestion. It splutters, grunts, occasionally settles down to some serene episodes, and then either abruptly seizes up or snorts some more. But I must try that Symphony 2 about which folks seem more positive.

Peter
Title: Re: Fritz Brun
Post by: eschiss1 on Friday 12 March 2010, 23:27
Re Wilhelm Berger: the recording I know about which seems more likely to still be available (?) is of his piano quintet, a 1994 recording on MDG.

There is another Wilhelm Berger, a Romanian composer, but I don't know of any CD recordings of his music. A violin concerto of his was recorded on LP.
Title: Re: Fritz Brun
Post by: Alan Howe on Saturday 13 March 2010, 09:45
I'm talking about the German Wilhem Berger (1861-1911). The PQ is one of the peaks of that genre and the 2nd Symphony is a quite wonderful and individual post-Brahmsian work, full of memorable themes, wonderful orchestration and surging power. Peterson-Berger is a much paler, less interesting composer....IMHO, of course!
Title: Re: Fritz Brun
Post by: Peter1953 on Saturday 13 March 2010, 09:54
Alan, is Wilhelm Berger’s 2nd Symphony available on CD?
Title: Re: Fritz Brun
Post by: Alan Howe on Saturday 13 March 2010, 12:47
No, I have an off-air recording from around 1986.
Title: Re: Fritz Brun
Post by: Peter1953 on Saturday 13 March 2010, 13:43
Thanks, Alan. This must be one of those many many unrecorded unsung gems. The only two works I have from Wilhelm Berger (opp. 94 & 95) are both very delightful pieces of chamber music.

I’ve listened to audio excerpts of all available symphonies by Brun (thank you, jpc). Of course it’s difficult, if not impossible, to say something reasonable if you have only heard a few seconds, but I think that if I should buy a CD (his 2nd sounds the most appealing to me) I’m not going to give it frequent listenings.
Title: Re: Fritz Brun
Post by: Alan Howe on Thursday 18 August 2011, 21:04
I decided to take the plunge and get into Brun's symphonies properly - Guild have now added Nos.6 and 7 to their recordings of 5, 9 and 10, so I ordered the lot! Thus my Brun quest has now begun in earnest with No.5 - and it's going to take some pretty concentrated listening, I think. It's pretty dark stuff, but the expressive power is certainly there. I could be changing my mind in favour of this composer, especially in Adriano's superb recordings made in Moscow.
Title: Re: Fritz Brun
Post by: semloh on Thursday 18 August 2011, 22:00
Alan, I would be interested to know how you get on as you listen to these....  I have so far been unable to discern a distinctive voice in his work; maybe I'm expecting too much or just need to listen more.
Title: Re: Fritz Brun
Post by: Alan Howe on Thursday 18 August 2011, 22:59
The voice is a pretty dark one, I think - one that rarely emerges from the dense writing, if I can put it that way.
Title: Re: Fritz Brun
Post by: Latvian on Thursday 18 August 2011, 23:49
I just heard Brun's 8th Symphony for the first time (previously only being moderately acquainted with #2), and I have to say I liked it very much, better than #2, actually. More listening is certainly needed, and I can't say I hear a distinctive voice, but I love the atmosphere of the work and have some hope for continued interest.

When I speak of "continued interest," I can't help but think back to about 20 years ago. The first time I heard Richard Wetz's 3rd Symphony, I was bowled over. A couple of weeks later, I went back to it and found it to be one of the most boring things I'd ever heard. Unfortunately, I still haven't recovered from that impression. Hence, I hope Brun doesn't elicit the same reaction!
Title: Re: Fritz Brun
Post by: X. Trapnel on Friday 19 August 2011, 06:53
I have the Guild recording of Brun's 9th. I only heard it once and thought it very nearly the most boring, characterless, pointless, uninspired music I'd ever heard that was neither baroque/rococo nor bel canto opera, nor neo-classical Stravinsky. Until hearing it the lead standard in a similarly late romantic idiom for me was Hermann Bischoff's 1st Symphony. I feel no great desire to revisit either to sort out their comparative dullness.
Title: Re: Fritz Brun
Post by: hadrianus on Friday 19 August 2011, 08:32
Hi everybody and greetiongs from Switzerland by the crazy guy who is on the way of recording all of Brun's orchestral works.  ;)
Hurwitz & Co have problems because they are confronted with something new and unusual: it's not their taste and way of thinking, they await just music going from A to Z according to the usual symphonic rules and according to mainstream, according to what they have judged as good beforehand. And they affirm things without even having perused a score!
I think Brun is now judged as was judged Mahler when they first tried to promote him - even Bernstein hat problems at the beginning. Mahler is crazy, revolutionary and unpredictable too.
Brun is more complex and crazy than Mahler because he mixes tradition with avant-garde techniques more wildly, he plays with polytonality, polyrhythm and dissonance more daringly. In any case his symphonies are as personal/intimate confessions like Mahler's, reflecting sanguine temper, his difficulties and anger towards Swiss petty-bourgeois way of life. 
You cannot imagine how difficult to play these Symphonies are and what personal engagement it needs to study, to love and to perform them. It's not a matter of many orchestras. Brun's Second is nothing in comaprision to what follows after.
I admit, it's not necessarily music for the subscription concert-hall. Its music which has to be listed and relistened several times before being able to get into it!
Best regards
Adriano
Title: Re: Fritz Brun
Post by: Alan Howe on Friday 19 August 2011, 11:20
What you say about 'Hurwitz & Co' is spot-on. They have the same problem with a similarly knotty composer, Felix Draeseke.
By the way, do you know Wilhelm Berger's 2nd Symphony? You would do it brilliantly! In the meantime, congratulations on taking up the cause of Fritz Brun!
Title: Re: Fritz Brun
Post by: Latvian on Friday 19 August 2011, 12:43
Thank you, Adriano, for your marvelous recordings! Not just Brun, but the many other unsung composers you have championed. And thank you for your comments about Fritz Brun and his esthetic. Keeping them in mind the next time I listen to Brun's 8th, I hope to get a different perspective on the music.

Have Naxos ended your George Templeton Strong series? Initially they claimed all the symphonies would be recorded, but it's been quite a while since the last release and I fear the series has gone the way of other "complete" projects announced to great fanfare, such as the Ivanovs symphonies, which were later quietly abandoned.
Title: Re: Fritz Brun
Post by: Rainolf on Friday 19 August 2011, 13:43
Are Brun's Symphonies still in manuscript?
Title: Re: Fritz Brun
Post by: eschiss1 on Friday 19 August 2011, 14:42
not positive how many of Strong's symphonies survive to be found?...
I wouldn't mind hearing some of Frédéric Ritter's manuscript orchestral and chamber works (and published piano and organ works) but that's for another thread. Anyway. Enjoyed Brun's 2nd symphony rather a lot, haven't yet heard more.
Title: Re: Fritz Brun
Post by: eschiss1 on Friday 19 August 2011, 14:44
At least nos. 2, 3 and 4, poss. more of Brun's symphonies were published in score by Hug of Zurich in 2007. (Yes, that's a publisher's name- they've been around for well over a century. Pronounced hoog.)
Title: Re: Fritz Brun
Post by: hadrianus on Friday 19 August 2011, 15:26
Hi Latvian
No other Symphonies have been published by Strong. I just have a copy of the MS of the 3rd and 4th Mvt of his First and some more youthful orchestral works, which I was promised by Naxos to have them recorded, but Naxos do not want me anymore (it was great to work for them but difficult to get along with its boss since he wanted to control me and did not let me record for other companies, not even the repüertoire he did not want himself!) and other labels are not interested anymore. Anyway, today you need full sponsorhip for practically all the classical labels unless you are a star making the usual mainstream nobody buys anymore. It's no real fun making music anymore...
Title: Re: Fritz Brun
Post by: Alan Howe on Friday 19 August 2011, 16:32
But you are doing marvellous work, Adriano. We appreciate it greatly.
Title: Re: Fritz Brun
Post by: eschiss1 on Friday 19 August 2011, 18:21
your more recent recordings and your sponsorship of the label on which a wonderful performance of Raff's piano quintet and some piano works (I haven't heard the one other recording I know of on your label, of Respighi's B minor sonata) found their home, are very much appreciated!
Title: Re: Fritz Brun
Post by: Dundonnell on Tuesday 27 September 2011, 01:19
Thanks, Alan, for making me aware that Guild had added a recording of Brun's 6th and 7th symphonies. I had completely missed that release; I didn't see it advertised anywhere.

I shall-of course-buy the cd because I already have the 3rd, 5th, 8th, 9th and 10th symphonies and the completist in me could not tolerate not adding the rest but it would, nevertheless be most interesting to hear your opinions of these two.

Brun I find a more interesting composer than Hans Huber whose eight symphonies on Sterling I dutifully bought but which made little real impression on me and are, sadly, likely to continue to gather dust on my shelves. I agree with what has been said about the need to listen both carefully and repeatedly to Brun's music. Not all of it, by any means, makes an instant impression but there is a definite feeling that there is music of real substance to be uncovered.
Title: Re: Fritz Brun
Post by: eschiss1 on Tuesday 27 September 2011, 01:21
Huber might be better in some of his large output of chamber music anyway (and I do like an organ fantasy of his...) - happens!
Title: Re: Fritz Brun
Post by: Mark Thomas on Tuesday 27 September 2011, 07:48
Huber definitely is better in his chamber music, but I'm afraid that the memory of the mind-numbing tedium of his "Fiddler of Gmund" Symphony, and some others in his canon, is hard to shake off.
Title: Re: Fritz Brun
Post by: Dundonnell on Saturday 05 November 2011, 12:29
Finally got round to listening to the new(ish) Guild cd of the 6th and 7th symphonies :)

The 7th made more impression on me than the 6th and the former is a work which seems to get better as it goes along, ending with a rousing finale which I particularly liked.

Definitely a composer worthy of continued exploration.