Leander Schlegel (1844-1913)
The album opens with a sonata by Schlegel, which is indisputably the very best of his works. Leander Schlegel, born in Leiden, completed his music studies, which started out in the Netherlands, at the Conservatory in Leipzig, where the piano was his primary instrument. He made a name for himself with solo recitals and as a chamber musician; he frequently accompanied the famous violinist Wilhemj on tour.
He was highly regarded as a Schumann interpreter. After several years in Paris, amongst other places, he settled down in Haarlem in 1871, where he headed a music school for 27 years. He was once honoured with a complete Schlegel-concert in Haarlem. This was however nothing compared to the recognition that he enjoyed outside the Netherlands; similar concerts were organised in Vienna on several occasions. Max Kalbeck, the writer of the first standard book on Brahms, referred to him as ‘the Brahms of Haarlem'.
He passed away in Overveen in 1913.
The sonata for piano and violin, (first performance in 1910) kept its foothold brilliantly next to other, more frequently performed, violin sonatas composed around the turn of the 20th century. His work relates especially to that of Max Reger. Both composers wanted to supplement an initially more or less Brahms-like idiom with a more progressive harmony and melody.
Gerrit I. van Eijken (1832-1879)
The second sonata on this album was composed by van Eijken when he was just twenty years old, in 1852, approximately at the time when Schumann was working on the first of his three violin sonatas. His sonata for piano and violin is the work of a man with extraordinary capabilities.
Van Eijken came from a family of musicians. After his studies in Amersfoort (his place of birth), he continued his studies in Leipzig and Dresden, where he was recognised as a talent similar in calibre to that of Mendelssohn and Schumann. After his studies, he worked in the Netherlands, primarily in Utrecht. The early works of van Eijken are clearly those of a major composer, but unfortunately he did not receive much appreciation. In an attempt to obtain recognition for his works, he left for England at the end of the 1860's, but things did not improve. Even though he composed a great deal in England, he no longer maintained the stature of the best from his time in the Netherlands. He died in 1879 in London as a result of pneumonia and delirium tremens.
The sonata has some links to the music of Mendelssohn and Schumann, but also displays a personal style in which passion, zest and emotion interchanges. The second theme of the last movement is reminiscent of Fauré, making the piece several decades ahead of its time.
Jan Brandts Buys (1868-1933)
Jan Brandts Buys was born in Zutphen, stemming from a large family of musicians. He moved to Frankfurt at a young age, lived and worked in Vienna and Dubrovnik and died in Salzburg. He was particularly successful outside the Netherlands; his tremendously successful opera, ‘Die Schneider von Schönau', (one of his operas) was performed more than any other opera from a Dutch composer. The Austrians honoured him: even in 1958 a bust was unveiled of him in the Mozarteum in Salzburg. Brandts Buys was considered a conservative composer in his time. Beethoven, Brahms and Grieg were his models. The romantic and sensual aspect of German music was, however, less appealing to him, and he was not charmed at all by the revolutionary atonal music of the beginning of the 20th century; he believed that it was too distanced from ‘nature'.
The sonata on this album is especially striking because of the simple and appealing style, obviously inspired by folk music. Short melodies and motifs, which frequently recur, are accompanied by a varied palette of synchronizations, resulting in a continuously changing mood.
Therefore, the sonata sometimes reminds of the impressionistic style of composers such as Ravel and Debussy.