Johann Ludwig Trepulka/Norbert von Hannenheim: Klavierstücke und Sonaten (ECM New Series 1937)


Johann Ludwig Trepulka
Norbert von Hannenheim
Klavierstücke und Sonaten

Herbert Henck piano
Recorded April 2005, Festeburgkirche, Frankfurt am Main
Engineer: Markus Heiland
Produced by Manfred Eicher

The ever-adventuresome pianist Herbert Henck returns for another dip into obscure waters, this time with a wholehearted survey of the music of Johann Ludwig Trepulka (1903-1945) and Norbert von Hannenheim (1989-1945). Both were twelve-tone composers (both also died in WWII), though one would hardly know it by assuredness of their writing in these austere interwar pieces. Of Trepulka’s surviving piano music we get the entirety here, and his Klavierstücke mit Überschriften nach Worten von Nikolaus Lenau, op. 2 (1923/1924) is especially vital in this regard. For decades, it was his only published work. Fortuitously, three years after recording a performance of these pieces for Radio Bremen, Trepulka’s grandson saw his grandfather’s name on Henck’s website. Henck was then given access to a small fortune of unpublished scores (such coincidences would seem to set Henck apart from many contemporary performers and interpreters). We can only hope these will be documented on ECM in the future. As for Hannenheim, he lived in dire poverty for most of his life, breathing his last in a sanatorium. Praised by teacher Schönberg for his ingenuity, the fiercely prolific young composer could find no publishing outlet for his music at a time of great economic and sociopolitical hardship. His work, along with that of his teacher, would be banned under the Hitler regime.

Despite the tortured climates surrounding both composers, Trepulka’s Klavierstücke mit Überschriften nach Worten von Nicolaus Lenau op. 2 (1923/24) welcome us with an almost Debussean charm. Their resolution of hard realities speaks in pointillist stirrings and turgid harmonies wrought somewhere between lyricism and oppression. The brevity of these pieces (only two go over five minutes) compresses continents of emotion into single counties, each a wellspring of action.

Hannenheim’s territories are no less sweeping, but seem to press their feet more deeply into the ground along the way. The Klaviersonate No. 2 (ca. 1929) is like two jagged lines struggling for synchronicity, only to find that their destination is the same. Other sonatas, like No. 4 (ca. 1929), are even more convoluted, while the jolting ponderousness of the No. 6 (ca. 1929) Andante awakens us to stillness. Intensely effective, if not effectively intense, the staggered rhythms of the Vivace betray an essentially simplistic heartbeat of musical integrity. The resoluteness of No. 12 (ca. 1929) makes brave way into the Konzert Nr. 2 für Klavier und kleines Orchester (ca. 1932), which exists only in this fragment, unwinding itself from a small pool of desperation.

This music represents an interesting confluence of impressionism and hardened interpretation, and behooves the curious listener to wrap her or his cochleae around its fascinations time and time again.

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