Concerto for Piano and Orchestra in A minor op.72
Paul Hermann Franz Graener (Gräner) – Concerto for Piano and Orchestra in A minor op.72
(b.11 January 1872 – d.14 November 1944)
After the end of the Second World War Paul Graener’s music disappeared from concert programmes, and musicology too gave the composer a wide berth. During his lifetime his works were frequently performed, and above all during the Third Reich he was one of the most popular composers (not least because of his active membership of the NSDAP [Nazi Party]). During the 1990s Graener was rediscovered, his music began to be played and his life was critically examined. A great deal of information about Graener, including countless manuscripts and private documents was lost in the destruction of his Berlin apartment during an air raid.
Concerning Graener’s family background we can only guess, since both birth and baptismal certificates were lost. In an early document he states that Klara Graener, née Kücker, was his mother; however, when filling in a form concerning the Law for Restoration of the Professional Civil Service on 7th April 1933 he gave the name Anna Graener as his birth mother. Anna died shortly after his birth and Klara brought the boy up. According to this, his father would have been Hermann Rüdiger; meaning that on marriage he would have taken his wife’s name, which in those days was almost unimaginable. It seems that Paul Graener had little idea himself about his family origins, which explains these inconsistencies.
Between 1884 and 1890 Graener attended the Askanian Grammar School in Berlin and in 1888 the Veitsch Conservatory as well, where he received free tuition from Albert Becker (1834-1899), who also counted Jean Sibelius among his students. Becker’s focus was on the composition of vocal music, which left a lasting impression on his student Paul Graener.
However, Graener wanted more – was obsessed with striving for greater and greater things. Consequently he broke off both the grammar school and his studies at the Conservatory and moved to Hannover, where by chance he became musical director at the theatre; however, it was only for one rehearsal, for his inexperience was quickly recognised and he was dismissed. In 1890 he made a second attempt in Bremenhaven as deputy musical director, where – armed in the interim with somewhat more basic experience – he gained several supporters and was even able to give a performance of his first work for the stage: Backfische auf Reisen [Young Girls on their Travels] with libretto by Fritz Vogler, a one-act operetta. The piece was favourably received, although it was often mentioned in reviews that it demanded too much of the small stage: Graener had long been striving onwards and upwards. Not long after that he left the theatre and finally, after several stopovers, he arrived in Vienna where he called on Brahms and had him cast an eye over his compositions. We have only a few of Graener’s youthful works remaining, mainly songs with piano accompaniment which present risqué texts and equally adventurous settings, full of wit and charm. …
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