Composer Recorded (At Last!)

Georg Tinter: Recording Premiere of his (Almost) Unknown Chamber Music

On The Town | Matthias Wurz | June 2007

Anyone who recognises the name Georg Tintner (1917 – 1999), Viennese by birth, probably thinks of him as a conductor of international standing. Known to a wider audience through recordings of the symphonies of Anton Bruckner (1824 – 1896) for the CD Label Naxos, many are surprised to learn that Tintner was also a composer. Though he saw himself as a composer who happened to conduct, must of his work has gone unperformed and unrecorded.

Therefore, credit should be given to Naxos for releasing a CD entirely devoted to the Georg Tintner’s work. This is a world-premiere recording encompassing the substantial Violin Sonata and a number of piano works, including a set of variations on Chopin’s famous Prelude in A major and a Piano Sonata. The music is exquisitely performed by two American musicians, violinist Cho-Liang Lin and pianist Helen Huang.

Tintner’s life was uprooted by Nazi anti-Semitism that forced the young composer, then aged 21, to flee Vienna and seek refuge in New Zealand. The works recorded on this CD date from the early 1930s – the time of his composition studies with Josef Marx at the Musikakademie in Vienna – to the mid-1940s when Tintner was living in New Zealand, after about one year in transit in Great Britain.

The Violin Sonata is thought to have been written between 1941 and 1944 in Auckland and has four movements of substantial length that make great technical and musical demands on both the violinist and pianist – which may be the reason why this work is not often heard. However, it is a charming composition, romantic in feeling with deep roots in Viennese tradition. Tintner described the four movements as an encounter with emotion, with movements representing Love, Defiance, Sorrow and Triumph. The work is dedicated to Karl Wolfskehl (1869–1948), German poet who also sought refuge in Auckland.

The Viennese charm, particularly of the first movement, is skillfully displayed by the warm and rich violin sound of Lin’s playing, well suited to the musical demand of the work. The movement is the most substantial of the four, written in traditional sonata form and of great lyrical beauty, long melodic lines and large expressive leaps, introduced in the opening phrase of the violin and carried richly throughout the movement. The piano accompaniment of Huang is sensitive and skilful, creating a conversation of exchange and support between the two performers. It is an enormously satisfying performance and one can only wish that this work will find its way into the standard repertoire.

Of the piano works the Sonata in F minor and the short piano piece Auf den Tod eines Freundes (On the Death of a Friend) are among Tintner’s earliest compositions recorded on this CD and are true tonal works in a rich, late-Romantic style. The Sonata is in one movement and encompasses stylistic elements of Chopin’s and Brahms’ piano pieces, but also owes much to the work of the late Alexander Scriabin (1872 – 1915).

The Chopin Variations (1934) are a set of 15 variations that touch on Chopin’s style, making references to genres Chopin made use of in his compositions for the piano, such as Nocturne and Chorale. The work received at least two performances in Vienna in the mid-1930s and a radio broadcast. On this CD, they are playfully performed, varied in expression.

Georg Tintner’s writing is richness and evocative, leaving a lot of space for discovery. With luck, this CD will not be the last.

See also: Austrian Archive ‘Exiled’ in Berlin, Georg Tintner: Life as an Ellipse, The City of Music’s Forgotten 20th Century, ‘Die Letzte Blaue’ Returns Home

Related events and reviews (selection): Austria on TrialFinding ‘Vienna’s Lost Daughters’, Innocents AbroadThe Klüger Campaign, Vienna’s Conscience (April 2008), Vienna’s Conscience (March 2009)

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