Ignaz Brüll, Walter Burle Marx

On the first Saturday of the month Jack Moore and I host Discoveries from the Fleisher Collection on WRTI 90.1 FM in Philadelphia and on the all-classical webstream at wrti.org. We also broadcast encore presentations of the entire Discoveries series (now eight years and counting) every Wednesday at 7:00 pm on WRTI HD-2. For a look at all the shows, click here.

Saturday, December 5, 2009, 5:00-6:00 p.m.

Ignaz Brüll (1846-1907). Overture to Macbeth, Op. 46 (1884). Karelia State Philharmonic Orchestra, Denis Vlasenko. Cameo 9026. Tr 8. 8:52

Walter Burle Marx (1902-1990). Concerto for Violoncello and Orchestra (1982). Dennis Parker, cello, Louisiana State University Symphony Orchestra, Carlos Riazuelo. Archival. Tr 1. 19:25

Brüll. Serenade No. 1, Op. 29 (1876), movements 4, 5. Belarussian State Symphony Orchestra, Marius Stravinsky. Cameo 9026. Tr 6-7. 10:37

On this 100th anniversary of the Fleisher Collection, we’ll hear some of the first music Edwin A. Fleisher put on the shelves and a world premiere just a couple of months old. In 1909, Fleisher founded the Symphony Club. Twenty years later, when he decided to step back from running it, he gave his music collection to the Free Library. Along with chamber music and books were more than 3,000 orchestral titles, with full scores and complete sets of parts. He decided that the best way to catalog these was “by acquisition,” Library-speak meaning the first item to be cataloged becomes #1, the second #2, and so on. It’s a good solution for a limited-access collection of similar items, since in the Dewey Decimal System all orchestral music would start with the same number. It makes even more sense now, since we’ve grown to more than 21,000 titles!

Near the top of the to-be-cataloged stack was Ignaz Brüll, whose Macbeth became Fleisher #60, and whose first Serenade came in at #263. (And #1? The Symphony No. 5, “Leonore,” of Joachim Raff: now you know.) Brüll is a perfect example of the unjustly neglected composer. He did achieve a level of fame, mainly from his opera Das goldene Kreuz, which continued to be performed until the Nazi ban on Jewish composers, years after his death. He had been a concert pianist, and later taught at, then ran a piano school in Vienna. His home became a center of Viennese musical society, and he and his wife often hosted parties with guests such as Mahler, Hanslick, Goldmark, and a close friend, Johannes Brahms.

His Macbeth is a concert overture, not an operatic one. Here, Brüll is in fine command of the orchestral and emotional palette. The earlier Serenade was his first success in the orchestral realm, bringing his name to the attention of many people. We hope that these recordings will re-open appreciation of his music yet again.

Walter Burle Marx always went by the name Burle Marx. At least, that’s how he signed his scores, and that’s how we knew him here at the Fleisher Collection, where he was a frequent visitor. Born in São Paulo to a German father and Brazilian mother, he was the older brother of the famous landscape architect Roberto Burle Marx. Like Brüll, Burle Marx concertized as a pianist in Europe, but it was as a conductor that he first became known to Americans, when he presented Brazilian music at the 1939 New York World’s Fair. He came to the U.S. permanently in 1952, moving to Philadelphia to teach piano and composition at the famed Settlement Music School.

His many works in all forms are meticulously crafted. His language is warm and energetic, often flashing with humor. This concerto ravishes. Dennis Parker has made it his own, the live recording from this October convincing us in its passion. From the earliest boxes on the shelves to the latest recordings, the Fleisher Collection continues to have an impact in the world of orchestral music.

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