Le Confident

Ideas tête-à-tête

Ernst Mielck – At the heart of Romantism

I discovered several composers over the last two weeks. For those interested in romantic music, one, Ernst Mielck, will be pure delight to listen to.

Youtube is one great invention, you can see and hear things, you would have never experienced by purely analogue ways. You can broaden your knowledge no matter where your interests lie.
It is possibly most efficient in conservative matters, like old music or scientific studies. Why? Because these branches of thought rely very much on traditions, on closed institutions and limited acess, both on purpose and as a result from bad organisation. Precisely these formerly restricted topics can now gain wider distribution. A wonderful thing, because they inspire you to contemplate in complex ways, they expose your brain to the idea of composing on a large scale, which is the activity that lies behind all kinds of management, architecture, arts, experiments and eventually comparison and tolerance.

Now within this idea, romantic music is a special case as it conveys emotions. But it’s not simply joy or anxiety, jealosy or hatred, because the then-modern customs called for a broad variation of  musical ideas in each work. Therefore you don’t hear the equivalent of still images, but rather a moving developing a plot, not one page, but a book and you have the feeling, that someone tells you a story.

That’s why I love the grand music of the 1800s. But at a certain time, one has heard all the great works and the other output of the time seems to be but mediocre and shallow.

Hearing Franz Lachner for example, you are constantly experiencing copy&paste from late Beethoven. He was a very well known musician in 19th century Vienna, but compared to others his works are lame. Not only that, but there is no real movement, no story telling. His compositions seem static, but long, his ideas are easily heard, but not original and not sincere. It’s like listening to someone, whom you know to have lost his memory. Youtube gives you many impressions, really enjoyable, as a good example of variation of a simple theme into an expression of sobbing greaf, is the middle of the first movement of his 5th symphony:

from 10:30 on, wonderful melody, but soon destroyed by this warehouse-mood.

Another one of my findings was Robert Fuchs. He definitely deserves mention as one of the greatest music instructors: with him learned Schreker, Mahler, Sibelius, George Enescu. Today he is not very much known, honestly I don’t understand why. His symphonies, especially the second, have the verve of Dvorak, without picturing a certain folk style. They have the broad romantism of Schumann, which is even greater in his piano works. Especially his sonata in g sharp major is a master work. Influences of Schubert and Schumann are there, but the invention of themes is plausible, they are original and very refreshing to hear, even if you know the works by the “great”.

Fuchs also showed Erkki Melartin the way into composing. He was basically the first to use the symphonic form in Finnish music. The other chap on the first place pedestal was Ernst Mielck, but he didn’t wright much, sadly. Melartin is surely worth your attention, especially if you like Sibelius. There is this typical feeling of nordish music, more I cannot say at this point. I miss a bit those striking melodies that Sibelius finds in every work, these breathtaking moments of awe, you might know from his Violin Concerto or the fourth symphony. As far as romantism is concerned, especially Melartins first symphony and also the violin concerto are to be mentioned. The concerto is very calm, cautious or even timid. Here, give it a try!

Melartin on his part, got his symphonic inspiration from Ernst Mielck, as did Sibelius at first. Mielck was born 1877 to a german father and finnish/swede mother. He studied in Berlin under Max Bruch, after having discovered his talent relatively late. Then he composed four years, four extremely promissing works before he died of tuberculosis 1899, aged 22.
It’s important for me to mention Ernst Mielck as he was of this rare kind of human-being, who dream of energetic melodies. Think of Tchaikovsky, who found a dozen times the purest expression of drama, of Bruckner who conveyed the power of his personal impression of god through the orchestra, of the fascinating simple melodies by Schubert.
Mielck has it all and even if you can hear all this kindredship in his music, there are astounding, unique musical moments to be experienced here. His most beautiful work for me is the concert piece for piano. He lets his fantasy dance over traditional Finnish melodies with ease and brilliance. The concert piece for violin is pure Bruch, which is a good thing too, as Bruchs handling of the fiddle is exceptional. In the quartet, it’s foremost the first and fourth movements who feature vivid ideas and then of course the symphony was able to teach Sibelius one or two things. It is at the height of romantic exaggeration if you will, and it is truely sad, that this apt composer had to go so early.

Here are links to these four major works. I haven’t found more online, only some impromptus on a obscure CD and songs on german poems. I give you those as well.

http://imslp.org/wiki/String_Quartet,_Op.1_(Mielck,_Ernst) (the quartet no 1)


http://www.qobuz.com/album/ute-beckert-ute-beckert-singt-und-spricht-theodor-fontane/0884463025264 (here tracks 12 and 13 are by Mielck)

And and article on Mielck and early Finnish classical music can be found here.


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This entry was posted on June 11, 2012 by in Music and tagged , , , , , .
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