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Hugo Kaun : Œuvres symphoniques. Stockhammer.
Diapason from February 2024
Review de Jean-Claude Hulot
Page No. 81
Format : 1 CD
Total Time : 01:17:27

Recording : 31/05-03/06/2022
Location : Berlin
Country : Allemagne
Sound : Stereo

Label : CPO
Catalog No. : CPO555572
EAN : 0761203557226
Price Code : DM021A

Publishing Year : 2023
Release Date : 02/11/2023

Genre : Classical
Hugo Kaun (1863-1932)
Poème symphonique "Minnehaha", op. 43 n° 1
Poème symphonique "Hiawatha", op. 43 n° 2
Symphonie n° 3 en mi mineur, op. 96

Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin
Jonathan Stockhammer, direction

Quel destin ! Né berlinois, émigré aux Etats-Unis, Hugo Kaun finira son périple de compositeurs dans les studios d’Hollywood. Plus qu’une curiosité pourtant. Les sombres poèmes symphoniques inspirés par les légendes indiennes connurent aux USA un succès durable et fondèrent un genre, "Minnehaha" avec ses couleurs tragiques et son orchestration dépressive signe tout l’art d’un compositeur qui offre une image sonore particulière mais peine à développer. "Hiawatha" commencé en tumulte, ne tient pas les promesses que Samuel Coleridge-Taylor réalisera, vite perdu dans un récit symphonique trop lâche. La Troisième Symphonie comporte de belles pages qui s’oublient aussitôt, et peine justement à faire grandir son arbre orchestral, nourri de trop rares thèmes. Une curiosité donc, à placer au rayon américain. Depuis les années vingt, les USA l’ont d’ailleurs oublié et il n’est pas si étonnant que cela de voir les soins attentifs d’un orchestre berlinois mené avec talent par Jonathan Stockhammer tenter cette résurrection. (Discophilia - Artalinna.com) (Jean-Charles Hoffelé)

Hugo Kaun is considered a modern late Romantic and was a German composer, conductor and music educator. His works were held in the highest esteem in Germany and America. In Chicago, Kaun studied with the German-American music theorist Bernhard Ziehn, with whom Wilhelm Middelschulte also received his training. Later, like Middelschulte, he taught at the conservatory there. Until 1901, he worked as a music teacher, conductor and composer in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and other places, and as founder and conductor of the Milwaukee Liederkranz and director of the festivals of the Northwest Sängerbund. From 1920 onwards, Kaun's compositional style changed markedly; these late works represent a sound and style symbiosis of Wagnerian expressivity on the one hand and elements of Impressionism on the other. Hugo Kaun's autobiography, published in 1932 (the year of his death), unfortunately contains only a few of his highly interesting travelogues, which served as a model for his two symphonic poems for "In the Jungle", and the Native Americans are of considerably less interest to him than the musical life in his adopted hometown of Milwaukee (perhaps the "most German city in the U.S.A." due to many German emigrants after the March Revolution of 1848) and the surrounding regions on Lake Michigan (including the musically more important metropolis of Chicago). In addition to embellished legends of his supernatural birth as the "Son of the West Wind" and his discoveries of grain cultivation and written language, the focus is also on the portrayal of his great love for Minehaha, whose life Hiawatha is unable to save during a great famine. Minnehaha, the first of the two related symphonic poems that make up Im Urwald, begins similarly to Dvorák's Largo with an English horn melody - albeit a rather short musical thought that is immediately repeated by the violas as in a duet. Thus there is no real soloistic personalisation, but rather a Wagnerian-like progression more or less in tutti, in which a new, chorale-like counter-idea reminiscent of Tannhäuser first appears, which then, with developing chromaticism and string glissandi, is increasingly reminiscent of the prelude to Tristan and Isolde: the musical language of the epic thus also exposes connections between Indian and European myths here. The score's notation of a steady increase in 'excitement' (after about three minutes, section I), which already contains a perceptibly 'suffering' component in addition to a longing, uplifting one, also speaks for the manifest Tristan connection. The following section is characterised by 'shimmering' string and harp sounds as well as ascending melodic lines, and its motivic pattern backdrop conveys an audible sense of nature. Indeed, as was already made clear in the opening quotation, the lake and forest landscape of his adopted home, which Kaun repeatedly emphasised in his autobiography as particularly idyllic, represents a source of musical inspiration. There is also an autobiographical recollection of this: in 1890, for professional reasons, he extended his travels to Minneapolis, since as conductor of the rather large Milwaukee Liederkranz, he was also responsible for the preparations for the 1891 Singers' Festival of the five-state Northwest Singers' Federation, which was to be held in the city, and as the chosen festival conductor he was to inspect all the larger singing societies in the area. While there, he also took the opportunity to visit the "Minnehaha Falls" near Minneapolis, which, according to his autobiography, was the main inspiration for "In the Jungle". Kaun first added the note to the printed score: "The two symphonic orchestral pieces were written in the woods of northern Wisconsin." In the case of Minnehaha, however, he also explicitly refers to the 20th canto "The Famine" and interprets the opening melody as a lament in the "cold, pitiless winter" until Minnehaha lies down exhausted. For Kaun, the described excitement also has nothing erotic about it, but on the contrary represents Hiawatha's efforts to save his hunting prey - while he remembers the good times with his wife. In Kaun's work, therefore, a narrative musical approach always takes precedence over the formal one. In the second piece, Hiawatha, the horns come in like a wake-up call: The main theme - Kaun himself calls it a "hunting motif" - is first exposed in alternating variations over two minutes, the tonal modulation up to a melting and trickling away is clearly in the foreground. The set action is intended to correspond above all to Longfellow's cantos 10 ("Hiawatha's courtship") and 22 ("Hiawatha's parting") - i.e. the end of the epic, but also the hunt and the prehistory of Menehaha's acquaintance. It thus expands - unlike the first piece Minehaha - into a comprehensive portrait of the main character (very much in the spirit of, for example, Franz Liszt's Faust Symphony, mentioned by Kaun in his autobiography by the way, in which the main characters of Goethe's play are chracaterised above all musically). This gives Kaun more of an opportunity to operate with different thematic blocks in the sense of a sonata form: Consequently, the continuation of the main movement of the hunt leads quite classically into a secondary movement with tender, playful interplay figures. The developing merging of the two motif complexes leads through idyllic, but also combative passages (Kaun also mentions Gesang 20 once again here). The sphere of the hunting motif as a musical area characteristic of the main figure regains dominance like a reprisal, and the lyrical theme also stands out once more. After the sonata movement scheme has been satisfied, however, the mood changes after about nine minutes to an imposing funeral march, which takes the place of a coda and exposes a completely new, catchy theme, which Kaun subjects to motivic and instrumental metamorphoses according to all the rules of the art. To the programmatic aspect that Hiawatha prophesies to his brothers at the end the arrival of strangers in their country, the composer adds the hint that he has used the "only Indian motif" here, a "chant [...] in honour of the god of war (thunder)" taken from an anthology of Indian music from Omaha by Alice Fletcher. Elsewhere in his autobiography, however, Kaun is quite critical of it: "I have used an Indian melody, which corresponds to the church keys, in my symphonic poem 'Hiawatha'. The Indian songs recorded in books usually owe their existence only to the imagination of the authors. The screaming, raving and bloodcurdling howling of the redskins, which increases to frenzy and is accompanied by wild grotesque leaps, cannot be called 'singing' at all; nevertheless, in the natural scenery of the jungle, it makes a deep, uncanny impression that one does not easily forget." Accordingly, Kaun doubts the communicability of authentic Indian music in European art music and criticises the cultural transformation of the "primitive peoples" into "salon Indians and negroes" - still without reflection and completely caught up in the colonialist discourse of the time. In Kaun's and probably Alice Fletcher's European tonally modified appropriation (as in Dvorák's famous Symphony in E minor), the questionable origin of such Indian melodies is therefore hardly noticeable today, also because of the traditional European sound; almost unintentionally ironically, Kaun brings the aesthetic heroisation of the figure Hiawatha through the Wagnerian-influenced Death March as the cultural twilight of the gods of a musically fictitious 'Indian nation' to the point. Significantly, the work attracted less interest in the medium term than the Hiawatha tone poems, which seemed exotic in Germany and were therefore more interesting, and which were already performed on a shorter concert tour in 1901 in a concert conducted by Kaun himself in Berlin's Beethoven Hall with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra and were also performed several times throughout Germany in the following years. By the time of his 1908 Second Symphony, Kaun had established himself as a composer to such an extent that this new work was performed by Arthur

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