Paul Juon – Anmut und Würde Suite for Orchestra op. 94
(b. Moscow, 6 March [22 February] 1872 – d. Vevey, 21 August 1940)
Sonne auf grüner Flur / Pastorale (Comodo) p.1
Flüchtige Schatten / Valse-Intermezzo (Tempo di Valse) p.12
Nachteinsamkeit / Notturno (Larghetto) p.23
Neckisches Spiel / Capriccietto (Quasi Polka) p.26
Tanz der Pfauen / Menuetto (Tempo die Menuetto) p.43
Dedicated to my friend Robert Lienau
3 flutes (also picc.) , 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 1 contrabassoon, 4 horns, 2 trumpets, 3 trombones, 1 tuba
timpani, bass drum, snare drum, triangle, cymbals, xylophone
Paul Juon, who may still be known to music lovers as the arranger of Brahms’ Hungarian Dance No. 4 for orchestra, left behind a huge catalogue of works. In a handwritten list, he mentioned and validated compositions from op. 1 to 99. Also called the “Russian Brahms”, he continued the tradition of late Romanticism in his compositions and largely kept away from the more recent trends of his time. At the beginning of the 20th century, his chamber music works were played not only in Germany, but also in Europe and America.
Paul Juon was born on 8 March 1872 in Moscow. His ancestors had emigrated from Graubünden in Switzerland to Russia. He first studied violin at the Moscow Conservatory, later, from 1889, composition with Sergei Taneyev and Anton Arensky – at the same time as Alexander Scriabin, who was almost the same age. Juon then moved to Berlin where he continued his studies with Woldemar Bargiel at the Hochschule für Musik from 1894-1896. Afterwards he taught for a short time at the Baku Conservatory, but then returned to Berlin, where he followed the advice of Joseph Joachim and worked as an assistant teacher at the Hochschule. From 1906 Juan was appointed professor of composition at there. His students included Hans Chemin-Petit and Nikos Skalkottas, as well as Philipp Jarnach and Stefan Wolpe. In Berlin Juon wrote essays on music theory, two manuals on harmony (1901 and 1919), the Aufgabenbuch für den einfachen Kontrapunkt (1905) his Anleitung zum Modulieren (1929). The Prussian capital became Juon’s adopted home for almost 40 years. Here he composed most of his works, which were published by Schlesinger, later Robert Lienau. He had a lifelong friendship with the publisher Robert Lienau, who greatly appreciated his works.
As the political situation in Germany continued to deteriorate, Paul Juon and his second wife, a Swiss woman, moved to Vevey on Lake Geneva in 1934. This closed a circle of life, as Juon’s ancestors were also from Switzerland. The 68-year-old composer died there in the summer of 1940.
Juon’s work focuses on chamber music for strings and piano, including numerous character pieces with suggestive titles. But he also created orchestral works and concerts for large ensembles, especially during his last years in Switzerland. Throughout his life he was inspired by Russian and Nordic folklore. In 1923 Juon wrote in a letter to Ernst Schweri, music director in Chur: “It is well known that the impressions you receive in your youth are the strongest, which is why mainly influences of Russian folk music (which I, by the way, love very much) are present in my works”. (Badrutt, Thomas: Paul Juon, his music and his life, 1998, w.w.w.juon.org.) This results in frequent changes of meter, especially in his chamber works, where at times the meter emancipates itself from the rhythm, so that themes develop independently of the bars.
Anmut und Würde belongs to Juon’s late works. Composed in 1937 after his move to Switzerland, the suite consists of five dance movements or character pieces, each with a programmatic title. However, these extra-musical references are only intended as a kind help for the listener, as a letter to Hans Chemin-Petit from 3 April 1939 proves: “I am not a friend of such programmatic information either. On the other hand, I have made the experience that most listeners tend to be very grateful for such information. They have no imagination and just have to be ‚tickled‘ a bit. I am often asked: ‚What were you thinking? What should the music present?‘ It is ludicrous!!!“ (Badrutt, Thomas: Paul Juon, an unknown romantic composer, 1999, w.w.w.juon.org)
As a composer Paul Juon was a meticulously precise. A quotation from a 1939 letter to his daughter Irsa gives an insight into his way of working: “I’m still tinkering with my Tanz Capricen. Always there is still something to improve. It’s good not to hand over the manuscript too hastily. You can’t be strict enough in artistic things. You have to know exactly why you wrote every single note. No note may be left that is not absolutely necessary. That’s why I scratch and erase excessively and have to clean my desk at any moment… (Badrutt, 1998) An approach that Juon certainly also applied to Anmut und Würde. After the pastoral Sonne auf grüner Flur in 6/8 time with typical bordun bass and shepherd instruments like flute and oboe, we hear the waltz Flüchtige Schatten, followed by the intimate notturno Nachteinsamkeit for clarinet and strings, the Polka Neckisches Spiel and at the end a minuet Tanz der Pfauen. The titles of the movements in the suite evoke moods of nature and make one think of natural tableaus.
The question as to whether there is a connection to Nietzsche’s philosophical treatise Über Anmut und Würde (1793) must remain open – even if Georg Günther mentioned Juon’s suite in his Friedrich Schillers musikalische Wirkungsgeschichte. Ein Kompendium from 2018.
In the autumn of 1939, after the Wehrmacht’s attack on Poland, merely a year before his death, Juon wrote: “Yes, evil on earth triumphs once again! When you see how everything good and beautiful (not least art and music) is brutally crushed to death, while lies, hypocrisy, meanness and all baseness celebrate orgies and poison people’s souls, then your heart hurts! Also I am torn out of my usual activity. Gone are the blissful hours of free work: the desire to do it and the ability to concentrate are blown away … (Badrutt, 1998.)
Renate Hellwig-Unruh, 2019
Performance material is available from Bote und Bock, Berlin.