Albums

2023
Chamber Works by Robert Müller-Hartmann by ARC Ensemble
Label: Chandos
Cat number: CHAN 20294
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Robert Müller-Hartmann was born in Hamburg, in 1884, the son of the piano teacher and clarinettist Josef Müller and his wife, Jenny. He studied in Berlin for four years, but then returned to Hamburg where he pursued a successful career combining teaching, composing, and writing. His works were widely performed by conductors such as Karl Muck, Carl Schuricht, Richard Strauss, Otto Klemperer, and Fritz Busch, and regularly played on German Radio. With the advent of National Socialism, in 1933, Müller-Hartmann was forced to resign from his teaching posts at the University and Conservatory. He continued to teach at Hamburg’s Jewish girls’ school, and was an active contributor to the Jüdischer Kulturbund (Jewish Cultural Federation). In the mid 1930s, Eugenia and Jacob (Yanya) Hornstein, Hamburg friends of the Müller-Hartmanns, moved to the town of Dorking, some twenty-five miles south of London, and in 1937 the Müller-Hartmanns followed them. The thirteen years Robert spent in England saw the country scarred by the losses, destruction, and privations of war. There was very little time or opportunity for him to secure a place in his adoptive country’s musical life, and despite his considerable success in Germany during the 1920s and ’30s, his reputation had failed to cross the English Channel. A general antipathy to the inclusion of German musical exiles and his modest, rather retiring personality ensured that he would soon be forgotten

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Press & critics

Chamber Works by Robert Müller-Hartmann Review by James Manheim

This release by the ARC Ensemble appeared in the Chandos label's Music in Exile series in 2023. This isn't exactly appropriate, for all the music here by the German Jewish composer Robert Müller-Hartmann was composed before 1938 when the composer fled Germany for England. Although he had had a good deal of success in Germany during the Weimar Republic and even stuck it out for a while there teaching in Jewish schools, he was never treated well in England (although Ralph Vaughan Williams appreciated his talent) and was even interned for a time. The excellent notes by ARC Ensemble artistic director Simon Wynberg tell the whole sorry tale, but the key point here is that he was totally forgotten, and all the works here are world premieres. They are well worth rediscovery. The opening Violin Sonata, Op. 5, is an early work from 1923 dedicated to Artur Schnabel. Hear the melodic lilt in the first movement, suggesting Viennese popular music, although Müller-Hartmann was from Hamburg. Perhaps the strongest work is the spare, four-movement Sonata for two violins, Op. 32, which one might easily take for Hindemith if asked to guess. The String Quartet No. 2, Op. 38, is an emotionally rich, rather intense work. Nothing at all is dull or academic here, and the varied forces all benefit from obviously well-prepared performances by members of the ARC Ensemble. Clear sound from Toronto's Koerner Hall is another plus on a recording by a composer who survived the horrors of the age.

Reviews

“…No avant-garde adventurer, Müller-Hartmann looked back to Viennese late-Romanticism for inspiration… Particularly charming is Müller-Hartmann’s Sonata, Op.32 for two violins, four genial, sprightly dance-like movements…”

Michael Schulman – thewholenote.com – 11 February 2024

“…This collection provides us with a portrait of a highly professional and competent composer. The music is superbly well written and adapted to the forces required. There are many passages of considerable expressivity and moments of pathos… The performances on this disc are beyond reproach…”

William Hedley – Musicwebinternational.com – 31 January 2024

“…These first recordings are no less well prepared, scrupulously engineered and sympathetically played than previous volumes in the series…”

Peter Quantrill – Gramophone magazine – January 2024

Performance ****      Recording ****

“… the strongest and most absorbing music comes in the melodically appealing Sonata for Two Violins and particularly in the emotionally probing Second String Quartet. As always, the ARC Ensemble’s committed performances make the best possible case for re-evaluating this neglected composer.”

Erik Levi – BBC Music magazine – January 2024

“…The ARC Ensemble seem to get to the heart of these pieces and present them in sympathetic performances in a good acoustic… An interesting rediscovery reflective of traditional elements in inter-war Germany …”

Jonathan Woolf – Musicweb-international.com – 20 November 2023