The German composer, Heinrich Schulz-Beuthen is a little known but charismatic name from the rich Romantic era. His surname was Schulz, but in those days it was not unusual for people with a common surname to add that of their hometown to distinguish themselves from others.
Born in June 1838, Schulz-Beuthen began studying chemistry but his passion for music was greater and he enrolled at the Leipzig Conservatory where his first teachers were Moscheles and Reinecke. After his graduation, he left for Switzerland where he taught composition from 1866 to 1880.
In Switzerland, he met Wagner and was also befriended by Mathilde Wesendonck. It was during this time that he started to compose piano music, and all six works on this disc date from this period. Unfortunately, he suffered a severe nervous breakdown soon after and was unable to compose for several years. Following a lengthy recovery, he taught in Vienna and Dresden until his death in March 1915 with his last years spent in a lunatic asylum.
Schulz-Beuthen was a prolific composer; included in his vast output are five operas, ten symphonies, symphonic poems, sacred pieces, including a Requiem, a piano concerto, chamber and choral works and several songs and piano pieces. Unfortunately, many of these works are now lost, and to further aggravate the situation, several of his works were never published. It is also believed that most of his manuscripts were destroyed in the fire bombing of Dresden in 1945. Still, we have enough material to reveal Schulz-Beuthen as an accomplished musician with many gifts.
The compositions on this disc are all delightfully well crafted little gems, full of melodic inspiration and delicate textures, and the American born pianist Kirsten Johnson betrays a certain predilection for these works. Her versions are full of charm and grace, but also, when warranted, a certain virtuosic passion that brings out all the hidden nuances of these atmospheric pieces. The annotations by Malcolm Macdonald are first class, an adjective that can be attributed as well, to both the artistic and technical merits of this CD. Recommended especially for piano aficionados with a taste for the uncommon.
Copyright © 2005, Gerald Fenech