Jean Louis Nicodé – »Bilder aus dem Süden« (Pictures from the South) Op. 29
(b. Jezyce near Poznan [Jersitz near Posen], 12 August 1853 – d. Langebrück [Dresden], 14 October 1919)
orchestrated by Max Pohle
(b. Leipzig, 25 May 1852 – d. Chemnitz, 1. November 1909)
I Bolero. Marcato (p. 1) – Moderate (p. 9) – Tempo primo (p. 17) – Moderate (p. 25) – Più mosso (p. 29) – Slower (p. 31) – Stringendo (p. 32)
II Moorish Dance Song. In moderate tempo (p. 1)
III Serenade. Not too fast, but not dragging (p. 1) – Slightly calmer (p. 9) – Tempo primo (p. 12) –
Tranquil (p. 16)
IV Andalusienne. Lively (p. 1) – Very fast (p. 23)
V Provencial Fairy Tale. Allegretto (p. 1) – Lively (p. 6) – Very fast (p. 12) – Tempo primo (p. 13)
VI In the Tavern. Quite fast, humorous (p. 1) – Slow, almost melancholic (p. 11) – Tempo primo (p. 16) – Calmer (p. 24) – Prestissimo (p. 25)
Jean Louis Nicodé was one of the most significant German composers between Johannes Brahms and Richard Strauss. His father was of French-Huguenot, his mother of Polish descent. In the third year after his birth the family moved to Berlin after the father had lost his property “by misadventure“. First he got some music lessons by his father. Then was taught privately by the organist Hartkaes. In 1869 he began studying at the ’Neue Akademie der Tonkunst’ that had been founded by Theodor Kullak (1818-82) in 1855. Director Kullak was his piano teacher, the Mendelssohn pupil Richard Wüerst (1824-81) and later on Friedrich Kiel (1821-85) were his composition teachers.
After finishing his academic training Nicodé first became well-known as a pianist, and in 1878 he was appointed piano teacher at the Royel Conservatory in Dresden one year after Franz Wüllner (1832-1902) had been appointed the institute’s director. In 1884 Wüllner became director of the Cologne Conservatory, and Nicodé followed him there after the Dresden directorate had prevented him from programming a four-hands arrangement of Franz Liszt’s ’Faust Symphony’.
But then he was offered the direction of the Philharmonic Concerts in Dresden. He strongly supported the cause of the ’Neudeutsche’ (New-German school), met with massive hostility, and vacated his position in 1888. In 1893 he became musical director of the Chemnitzer Städtische Kapelle [Chemnitz Municipal Orchestra] and there he also founded a new choir in 1896 that soon became well-known as the ’Nicodé Choir’. In Dresden he staged the ’Nicodé Concerts’ until 1900 and established the music by Felix Draeseke, Anton Bruckner and Richard Strauss against all the conservative resistance. He mainly became legendary as a conductor of Beethoven and Wagner, demanded 22 rehearsals for Beethoven’s Missa solemnis, and Ferdinand Pfohl (1862-1949) described him as a “genius conductor by nature. In Nicodé’s art of conducting truely musical conception that penetrates to the last depths of the work of art merges with spirited and emotional interpretation that is stimulated by inner warmth and fiery temper, with clarity and plasticity: the full inward and outward correlation of the work of art.“ In 1900 Nicodé withdraw from conducting and finally dedicated himself again intensely to composition. Within three years he created his magnum opus: the symphonic tone poem ’Gloria! A Song of the Storm and the Sun’ Op. 34 for choir and orchestra that received its première at the Tonkünstlerfest in Frankfurt am Main on 30 May 1904. This gigantically scored work (with 12 french horns, 7 trumpets, 8 bells, 12 whistles, organ, etc.) lasts for ca. two hours without interruption. Before ’Gloria!’ Nicodé’s main works were the symphonic ode ’Das Meer’ [The Sea] Op. 31 for male choir, solo, large orchestra and organ after poems by Karl Woermann (1844-1933) and his Symphonic Variations Op. 27 that are dedicated to Johannes Brahms and that prompted Fredinand Pfohl in 1902 to the following statement: “Nicodé’s harmny in bold and magnificent, his mastery of counterpoint is impressive, his orchestration is poetic, dramatic, and of particular beauty and originality of its colouring.“
”Pictures from the South” Op. 29, orchestrated by Max Pohle
Nicodé composed his ‘Pictures from the South’ op. 29 for piano four hands. It is his last work for this instrumentation, so widespread at the time and immensely popular in domestic music and for evening entertainment in bourgeois circles. Earlier works for piano four hands by Nicodé were the 4 Miscelles op. 7 (Breitkopf & Härtel 1876), Waltz Caprices op. 10 (Breitkopf & Härtel 1877), Scherzo fantastique op. 16 (Bote & Bock 1878) and the waltz ‘Eine Ballszene’ op. 26 (Breitkopf & Härtel 1883). The ‘Pictures from the South’ were written around 1885/86 after the Symphonic Variations op. 27 for large orchestra of 1884-85, with which Nicodé established himself as one of the leading orchestral composers of his time. The work consists of six genre pieces that evoke musical scenes from Spain and Italy in an extremely natural, genuinely felt manner before the listener. It was published in print in 1886 by Breitkopf & Härtel in Leipzig. As in his ’Faschingsbilder’ (Carnival Pictures) for orchestra, Nicodé presents himself as an eminent master of light music, harking back to an art that was naturally mastered among the greats by Mozart, Schubert, Rossini, or Weber, and that was cultivated in his time by Brahms and Dvořák particularly in their dances. All six movements are absolute masterpieces of the finest craft, characteristic elegance, and consummately shaped form. By the way, it is by no means necessary to perform all six movements together, although this works wonderfully coherently.
The orchestration by Max Pohle, authorized by the composer, was arranged around 1903/04 and is so subtle, characteristic and brilliant that it could just as easily have been written by Nicodé himself. Prof. Hermann Eduard Max Pohle was the director of the Chemnitz Municipal Orchestra from 1889 until his early death, and as a musician was on friendly terms with Nicodé in mutual esteem. May this first reprint of the first edition, published in 1904 in six separate editions, be an incentive to many conductors to discover and perform as often as possible this enchantingly light-footed, extremely tasteful and effective music, which ideally expresses exactly what it wants to and should express. There will be no audience that cannot be captivated and entertained in the best sense of the word.
The score and parts of Max Pohle’s orchestration of Nicodé’s ”Pictures from the South” appeared in print in 1904 from Nicodé’s parent publisher Breitkopf & Härtel in Leipzig. This first study edition of the score is an unaltered reprint of the first edition.
Christoph Schlüren, July 2023
Performance materials are available from the original publisher Breitkopf & Härtel, Wiesbaden (www.breitkopf.com).
German preface > HERE