Honoured friends of audiophile music, the concert grand piano is incontestably the king of all instruments. I could now elaborate on how incomparably dynamic an instrument it is, from the most delicate of sounds in a soft minor key to the powerful impact of the fortissimo. Or I could wax lyrical about its impressive size and elegance. But the truly fascinating thing about it is its individuality, since every instrument is a unicum created by a master. It has a life all of its own that the virtuoso surrenders himself to, thus bringing to life the work of the composer. In our "Grand Piano Masters" series, we get right into the character and soul of the concert grand piano and experience during the performance the dialogue between the instrument, the virtuoso and the performance space.
Mood-wise, we begin with a real treat: a midnight concert - a soirée in the Bad Homburg Castle Church. Franz Vorraber plays Impromptus and the Wanderer Fantasie by Franz Schubert. You will experience a nocturnal tour of an instrumental sound space with unique compositions that exploit the "Grand Piano" in its entirety and make this audiophile experience in the ambience of the Castle Church truly one to remember. The pianist, Franz Vorraber, a romantic and a connoisseur of Schubert, identifies and interprets with great sensitivity the highs and extreme lows of "Franz", the eternal wanderer, who in his day escaped to such distant parts. In the deep of the night, two masters - the composer and the artist - struggle for the light of day.
In 1827, a year before his death, Franz Schubert wrote the Impromptus at the age of thirty. He grouped these eight pieces into two cycles with four impromptus in each, perhaps so they could be played individually or as a whole cycle.
The first Impromptu in C minor is an unusual piece. Beginning with on a long, drawn-out note, Schubert develops a unison melody that flows up and down in a triplet movement and which he then imbeds in a four-part chorale. The rhythm in this dark key of C minor is that of a march, probably a funeral march, and lends a tense atmosphere, something inescapable, to the whole. Block-like and with no transition, the unison passages are rather like a woodwind chorale and play side by side. The changes of key are abrupt and sudden. As if it were a memory, the motif reappears later in A flat major, the key of dreams and longing. During the entire piece, the contrasts are heightened and varied until the startling change to C major, which is totally unstable and glides again and again into C minor. Seldom do you find a composition where C major and C minor are so close to each other in such a small space. The first Impromptu ends in major, without losing this surreal mood.
In contrast to the march rhythm of the first Impromptu, the underlying rhythm of the second, written in E flat major, is in triple meter, with the second beat always stressed, just like the chime of a bell in answer to the heavy first stroke. Combined with the cascading runs played with the right hand and that start on a triple, the motif common to all four impromptus, this rhythm lends the E flat major impromptu its characteristic sound. In the middle section, Schubert heightens the bell chimes with double sforzati, which let the finally piece end in falling E flat minor runs during the closing measures.
The third Impromptu uses the Schubert "wanderer rhythm", combined with a continuous triplet movement in the melody, which is characterized this time by the falling triple. Even at this slow tempo, Schubert keeps this relentless pattern of movement going right to the end. Again, melodic phrases in the secondary voices, mainly from falling triplets - from G flat to E flat at the beginning, for example - give rise to changes in harmony that introduce a "dreamlike uncertainty" to the piece.
The cycle concludes with the Impromptu in A flat major, where the harmony at the start is rather like an unanswered question. It begins with an A flat minor chord break, leading into the dominant tune after an E flat major as a standing chord, which, without resolution, then flows into a pause. This is followed by a motif with a downward triplet movement, which can scarcely be seen as an answer to the question posed at the start. Schubert's rhythm here is similar to that of the second Impromptu, with stressed long notes on the second beat. Schubert uses these methods consistently to develop the character of the music and thus create perfect masterpieces. In the middle section in C sharp minor, he picks up the long second beat and puts it into the melody, then combines the latter's circular movement with thumping eighth chords played with the left hand. After repeating the start of the piece with its questioning language, the cycle finishes on two loud chords that say very: Now it's over!
The "Wanderer Fantasie", as it is known, was written almost five years earlier, between 1822 and 1823. The words of a line from the Schubertlied, "Der Wanderer", set the theme for the second movement, which, in turn, forms the central sequence of variations that make up the piece. This is a daring, orchestral-like work that is unique even in our times. It consists of four movements built around one rhythmic motif, with each movement flowing into the next without a break, thus turning the four into one whole entity. Although the title of "Wanderer Fantasie" was not Schubert's, the reference to the lied "Der Wanderer" is obvious because of the central theme of the piece. The dominant rhythm pattern also appears in other works by Schubert. Wandering ceaselessly, without ever stopping - this continuous flow ad infinitum pulls everything along with it. It is the wandering of our lives, the relentless flow of time - time, which, as a symbol in the arts, is perhaps best represented by music. This wandering may well be interrupted by dreams, as in the 2nd movement, but it remains an ungovernable force that cannot be escaped. At the end of the third movement, Schubert composed a tremendous crescendo of sound that was probably too much for the instruments of that time to cope with and which merges into a fugued fourth movement in octaves, where sound unfolds in all possible registers. The notes are distributed up and down the entire keyboard, and there are chord tremoli and octave runs galore, all of culminate in an untamed flood of sound in C major.
in November 2007
Born in Graz - Austria, Franz Vorraber has been fascinated by the piano since his early childhood. At the age of seven, he played the organ in church standing up - as he could hardly reach the pedals. At the age of thirteen, he was admitted to the piano class for exceptional students at the Music Conservatory in Graz, also learning the violin. The Viennese School in the tradition of Bruno Seidlhofer and the traditional German school of Wilhelm Kempff, handed down by Joachim Volkmann, dominated his study years. He has won many prizes for his skills on the piano. Here, just some of the awarders: the Austrian Culture Minister, the piano manufacturers Bösendorfer in Vienna and the city of Graz. He also won the Joachim Erhard prize. He completed his studies in Frankfurt and Graz receiving unanimously the highest awards.
His greatest project has been the cyclical performance of Robert Schumann's complete piano works in a total of twelve evenings in different cities in Europe and Japan. The press and the public have repeatedly acclaimed him as one of the most important interpreters of Schumann in our times. He has recorded these works on a series of thirteen CD's for which he was awarded Austrian Broadcasting's Pasticcio prize in 2006. Despite all these prizes, other criteria are pivotal in Franz Vorraber's concerts.
His enormous expressive force as a musician and his ability to expose the essential core of the music fascinate his public. He leaves his listeners emotionally moved. Since his debut in Tokyo at the age of 19, he has received many invitations to almost all the European countries, America and Japan, where he also holds master classes.
Works and MP3 Previews (128 kBit/s):
1797 ~ 1828
I. Concert Start
II. Impromptu Opus 90 No. 1
in C minor ~ D 899/1
III. Impromptu Opus 90 No. 2
in E flat major ~ D 899/2
IV. Impromptu Opus 90 No. 3
in G flat major ~ D 899/3
V. Impromptu Opus 90 No. 4
in A flat major ~ D 899/4
VI. Wanderer Fantasy
Fantasia Opus 15 in C major ~ D 760
Franz Vorraber plays the
Grand Piano D 280 No. 191784
by C. Bechstein.
It was thanks to Heinrich von Kleist's drama "The Prince of Homburg" that the former residence of the Landgraves of Hesse-Homburg, a stone's throw away from the gates of Frankfurt, became world-famous. The palace with its wonderful gardens is probably one of the most beautiful baroque estates in Germany. It is therefore no wonder that the Prussian Kings and German Kaisers were very fond of spending the summers between 1866 and 1916 here. And also no doubt because of the relaxation and recreation provided by the town of Bad Homburg vor der Höhe, a spa famous for its medicinal springs. Even the Prince of Wales used to come here in search of amusement, relaxation and "to take the waters" along with the English and Russian aristocracy.
At the courts of Europe, art was extremely multi-faceted. The educated aristocracy was aware of the necessity to support and cultivate the fine arts, and in doing so, created the basis for Europe's ambience. And so it was thanks to arts patron Isaak von Sinclair that the poet genius Friedrich Hölderlin became the court librarian at Homburg Castle during the artistically formative years of his life. It was here that Hölderlin wrote "Patmos", probably his best-known poem. In those days, much that was of little ostensible or commercial value in the fine arts or in literature and music aroused considerable attention and admiration, thus laying the foundations of our cultural life and identity today.
Music that is new, pieces worth listening to and well worth conserving, little treasures from the traditional and the avant-garde - music that is unimaginable anywhere else but in the hotbed of Europe - our "Castle Concerts" series of recordings captures these in their original settings and preserves them for the future. By his endowment to the town church in Bad Homburg, Kaiser Wilhelm II unwittingly did the little church in the palace a favour and helped turn it into one of the most beautiful and intimate concert halls in Europe. The Castle Church fell into disuse and was forgotten, along with its magnificent late-18th century Bürgy organ. The turmoil and modernization fads of the 20th century passed it by, and it remained untouched until a local initiative, the "Bad Homburg Castle Church Trust", stepped in and secured enough patronage to save this architectural gem. True to the original and with a loving attention to detail, both, church and organ were restored to create a truly wonderful concert hall.
Today the Castle Church sparkles with a renewed radiance that is set off perfectly by the superb "Music in the Castle" concerts organized with such enthusiasm by Ulrike and Volker Northoff.
View the website of the "Music in the Castle" concerts at www.musik-im-schloss.de
The CD Series
Publishing culture in its authentic form entails for us capturing and recording for posterity outstanding performances and concerts. The performers, audience, opus and room enter into an intimate dialogue that in its form and expression, its atmosphere, is unique and unrepeatable. It is our aim, the philosophy of our house, to enable the listener to acutely experience every facet of this symbiosis, the intensity of the performance. The results are unparalleled interpretations of musical and literary works, simply - audiophile snapshots of permanent value, recorded in direct 2-Track Stereo digital.
In our Edition Authentic Classical Concerts we go in search of this dialogue - to the large constructions and rare pearls of human architecture. For every building has its peculiarities, formed by its historical, acoustic and atmospheric circumstances. But the critical element remains the person, the artist with his intellectual sensibilities. The genesis, the origin, the environment, the musical evolution and education are all factors that develop our tastes and preferences: for example, for a love of large spaces, of classical or modern architecture.
It is not without reason that the peoples of other continents and cultures enthuse over the fascination of the European experience... is not "the land of opportunity" or the magic of the orient equally worthy of a visit? Is not the sensitivity of an Italian opera singer or a Bulgarian violinist crucial to the interpretation, the handling of the composition, the work? And finally, the circle is closed with the emotions of the audience and the atmosphere of the performance site.
These subjectivities are mirrored in the perception of an atmosphere, a space - creating an individual, personal imagined space within a space - coloring the conception of a piece. Classical music lives! Lives through the interpretation, the tension built up during the performance, and through the combination of work, space, artist and audience.
We accept the challenge and record the concerts directly in digital stereo and thus become a part of the performance itself, capturing, in sound and pictures, the impressions, the suspense that we enjoy during a concert - so that we may impart to you as authentic an experience as possible.
Flourishing culture in living monuments, enthralling the audience and last but not least also you the listener are the values we endeavor to document in this series.
Andreas Otto Grimminger & Josef-Stefan Kindler