Robert Kahn: Piano Quartet no 2; 7 Songs from “Jungbrunnen”; Serenade for String Trio


Comparisons of music by German composer Robert Kahn (1865-1951) to that of Johannes Brahms (1833-1897) are unavoidable. Brahms was a traditionalist who sought to retain techniques and structures from the Baroque and Classical periods and apply to them the new freedoms of Romanticism. A generation younger, Kahn's approach can be described the same way; but the similarities run deeper than this. Like Brahms, Kahn's music is marked by an emotional reserve in favor of attention to structure and technique when compared to other late Romantic composers. This is evident in all of the works on this Hänssler Classic CD, especially in the Piano Quartet which begins the program.

This disc consists of chamber music and lieder, two genres which make up the bulk of Robert Kahn's output. There are three works here - the Piano Quartet No. 2, Op. 30 (1899), 7 Lieder aus "Jungbrunnen" for voice and Piano Trio, Op. 46 (1906) and the Serenade for String Trio (1933). The audio sample accompanying this recommendation is from the opening of the first movement of the Piano Quartet, containing some of the more Brahmsian sounding music on the CD.

The set of seven songs here are based upon the whimsical stories of the young poet Paul Heyse, written to entertain children in his charge while he babysat. They are sung alternately by soprano Julia Sophie Wagner and baritone Michael Nagy, accompanied by piano trio. Lyrically written and sensitively performed, it is however unfortunate that translations are not included. If any reader can locate them, (I could not) please leave them as a reply to this post for the benefit of all. The string trio concluding the program is a little more modern sounding, but largely in the same vein as the preceding works.

Incidentally - and this is just a neat little factoid - in 1906, the year Kahn wrote the songs on this CD, his third daughter was born. She would become the grandmother of the two women string players on this recording! No artistic compromise was made to make this so - the performances are first rate.