Nicodé, Jean Louis


Nicodé, Jean Louis

Symphonic Variations, op. 27

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Jean-Louis Nicodé

Symphonic Variations, op. 27 (1884-85)

(b. Jersitz [Jeżyce], Poznań, 12 August 1853 – d. Langebrück, 14 October 1919)

While his Munich contemporaries have long been objects of study, Jean-Louis Nicodé still awaits rediscovery. Born in the town of Jersitz (now the Jeżyce district of Poznań), he was the son of a violinist and music teacher of Huguenot descent. In 1856 the family moved to Berlin, where Jean-Louis enrolled in the New Academy of Music at the age of sixteen. There his teachers were Theodor Kullak (piano), Richard Wüerst and Friedrich Kiel (theory and composition). After leaving the academy as an “adroit pianist and contrapuntist” he accompanied the soprano Désirée Artôt de Padilla on a concert tour of Galicia and Rumania. In 1878 he was appointed principal teacher of piano at the Royal Conservatory in Dresden, where he soon revealed a close proximity to the New German School. When he was prohibited from performing the two-piano version of Liszt’s Faust Symphony in 1885, he gave notice at the Conservatory and settled in Berlin, becoming a piano teacher and, with the intercession of Hermann Wolff, the artistic director of the Philharmonic Concerts. There he mainly championed the musical modernists of his day, including Felix Draeseke, Anton Bruckner, and Richard Strauss, frequently to the annoyance of conservative concert-goers. In 1887 he married Fanny Kinnell, the daughter of the British consul, and by 1888 he had resigned from his position to devote himself entirely to composition. Five years later, however, he returned to the conductor’s desk to direct the Nicodé Concerts. From 1896 to 1900 he also headed the Neustädtischer Chorgesangverein. In 1900 he settled in the exclusive Langebrück district of Dresden. Shortly before his death he was made a professor of music (1918) and a member of the Academy of Arts in Berlin (1919). A large part of his posthumous papers are located today in the Saxon State Library, Dresden.

Nicodé’s most important works are the symphonic ode Das Meer (op. 31) and the two-hour symphony Gloria! ein Sturm- und Sonnenlied for chorus and orchestra (op. 34), which had to wait until 1915 for its première. His works appeared in print from 1876, including several significant piano pieces, a cello sonata, the hymn Erbarmen for mezzo-soprano and orchestra (op. 33), and various orchestral works. The Symphonic Variations (op. 27) were composed in 1884-85. The author of the accompanying poem, Karl Woermann, was one of Nicodé’s closest friends in Dresden and had already contributed the words to Das Meer. The piece witnessed several performances, including one at the Leipzig Gewandhaus in 1892, of which the critic Ferdinand Pfohl wrote, “Nicodé’s harmony is bold and magnificent, his contrapuntal mastery impressive, his orchestration poetic, dramatic, and imbued with special beauty and a distinctive coloration.”

Translation: Bradford Robinson

For performance material please contact Breitkopf und Härtel, Wiesbaden.

Score No.



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160 x 240 mm





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