Friedrich Gernsheim: Symphonies 1 & 3 / Hermann Bäumer, Mainz Orchestra


Indefatigable in their quest to bring us fresh and wonderful music, cpo has done it again with this fascinating release of two symphonies by German composer Friedrich Gernsheim (1839-1916). The label's strong suit has been its recordings of instrumental and orchestral music from the classical through post-romantic periods. This release of Gernsheim's symphonies nos. 1 and 3 is yet another feather in cpo's cap, which by now must resemble an Indian headdress! The Philharmonisches Staatsorchester Mainz under principal conductor Hermann Bäumer provide performances with all the sweep and magnificence the music deserves.

Gernsheim was a child prodigy who at the age of thirteen entered the Leipzig Conservatory becoming the youngest student at that prestigious school. He was a celebrated concert pianist and later in life, a respected conductor who held posts in Saarbrücken and Rotterdam. He also held teaching positions at conservatories in Cologne and Berlin, sharing company with many of the most eminent musical personalities of his time including Liszt, Rossini, Saint-Saëns and Brahms. A prolific composer, Gernsheim wrote in virtually every form with an emphasis on chamber and orchestral music. In all, Gernsheim wrote four symphonies between 1875 and 1896. The First and Third on this disc come from 1875 and 1888 respectively.

Gernsheim was an extensively schooled musician; his music is meticulously constructed and musically very rewarding. The First Symphony has a Brahmsian feeling to it and shows the influence of Schumann and Mendelssohn. It should be noted here that Gernsheim's First Symphony was written before the publication of Brahms' First Symphony. A close friend of his, Brahms' influence will become evident in Gernsheim's Third Symphony. You can listen to the third movement Scherzo of Gernsheim's Symphony No. 1 in the video that appears to the right, and to the final movement of that same symphony in the video below (the later clip is not taken from this disc). I'm going to assume that cpo will bring us the other two Gernsheim symphonies shortly and hope they don't stop there - there are two violin concertos, and one each for piano and cello as well as a large body of chamber music which likely deserve our attention as well.

Here is a video of the final movement of Gernsheim's Symphony No. 1. The performing forces are not identified, but since it was posted in 2011 and the present cpo version was recorded in 2012, it's not the same - but it is more wonderful music by Gernsheim. Enjoy!