Noren, Heinrich Gottlieb
Violin Concerto in A minor Op. 38 (Piano Reduction/Solo)
For more information on the piece:
I Allegro con spirito e poco agitato (p. 1) – A tempo un pochettino meno mosso (p. 22) – A tempo più lento (p. 32) –
Più vivo (p. 38) – Tempo giusto con impeto (p. 41) – Più vivo (p. 44) – Stretto (p. 46) –
A tempo meno mosso (p. 50) – A tempo primo (p. 56) – Kadenz (p. 67) – A tempo (p. 76) – Più vivo (p. 87) –
Tempo giusto (p. 92) – Stretto (p. 98) – Accelerando (p. 102)
II Intermezzo melanconico. Andante (p. 105) – A tempo più mosso (p. 115) – A tempo primo (p. 121) –
A tempo poco più tranquillo (p. 128)
Finale rustico. Allegro con brio (p. 135) – Più mosso (p. 176) – Tempo primo (p. 195) – Più mosso (p. 229)
Heinrich Gottlieb Noren (baptized Heinrich Suso Johannes Gottlieb) was the son of Johann Gottlieb, a professor at the Joanneum in Graz, and only adopted the surname Noren in later life. He appeared in public as an excellent violinist while still a boy, and after completing his basic education in Graz he studied in Brussels with Henri Vieuxtemps (1820-1881) from 1878 and in Paris with Lambert-Joseph Massart (1811-1892) from 1883. He then worked as a concertmaster in Belgium, Spain, Russia, and Germany, studied composition in Berlin with Ludwig Bussler (1838-1900) and Friedrich Gernsheim (1839-1916), and added a study of counterpoint in Cologne with Otto Klauwell (1851-1917). In 1896 he settled in Krefeld, where he founded the local conservatory (it remained in existence until 1942), and then moved to Düsseldorf as head of the conservatory in that city. From 1901 to 1907 he taught at the Stern Conservatory in Berlin, and from 1907 to 1911 he was professor of composition at the Dresden Conservatory. In 1915 he moved to Rottach-Egern in Upper Bavaria, where he lived in Kreuth-Oberhof near Lake Tegernsee until his death.
Little is known about Noren’s life and nothing about his early works. In 1896 Challier & Co. in Berlin published an Album Leaf by him for violin and piano (op. 8). It was followed by an Aria religiosa for orchestra (op. 9), an Elegiac Song-Scene for cello with piano or orchestral accompaniment (op. 10), a Berceuse for cello and piano (op. 12), various vocal works, a Suite in E minor for violin and piano (Berlin: Eisoldt & Rohkrämer, 1903), and other lesser works, including several with harmonium. In 1906 a piano trio from his pen was published by Lauterbach & Kuhn (op. 28). Then, in 1907, he was surprisingly catapulted to sudden fame with Kaleidoscope (op. 30). Later works worthy of mention include Sunday Morning, a setting of Hugo Salus for voice and orchestra, op. 31 (1909); Singing Lays, six pieces for violin and piano, op. 32 (Bisping, 1912); Sonata in A minor for violin and piano, op. 33 (Bote & Bock, 1909); Vita: Symphony for Modern Orchestra, op. 36 (Berlin-Schöneberg: Eos, 1913); Violin Concerto in A minor, op. 38 (1912); Divertimento for two solo violins and orchestra or piano, op. 42 (Eos, 1913); Notturno e Capriccio for violin and piano, op. 43 (1913); Sonata for Cello and Piano, op. 47 (Eos, 1914); Symphonic Serenade for orchestra, op. 48 (ca. 1915); and many songs with piano accompaniment. He also wrote an opera, Der Schleier der Béatrice.
One of the best violinists of his generation, Noren was at first belittled as a composer. Then the première of his orchestral variations Kaleidoscope, given at the Dresden Tonkünstler Convention on 1 July 1907 by the Saxon Hofkapelle (the forerunner of the Dresden Staatskapelle) under their principal conductor Ernst von Schuch (1846-1914), thrust him instantaneously into the forefront of modern composers at the age of forty-six. Besides the incontestable musical quality of this brilliantly and inventively orchestrated work, as delightful in its seriousness and sublimity as in its whimsy and gossamer workmanship, it was especially the unusual freewheeling final variation before the double fugue (“Fantasy,” No. 11) that attracted widespread attention, both for the uninhibited boldness of its design and for the audacity with which it dared to brook comparison with “a famous contemporary.” This was, of course, Richard Strauss, whose Ein Heldenleben Noren unabashedly quoted not once but twice.
Hardly did news of the stunning success begin to make the rounds than Noren found himself embroiled in legal repercussions which would develop into a priceless and gleefully commentated original precedent: Richard Strauss’s Leipzig publisher submitted a lawsuit to the Royal District Court in Leipzig for infringement of copyright. This proved to be grist for the mill of the stylistic controversy then raging between the progressives (primarily the bold innovator Strauss, never at a loss for a turn of phrase or tirade) and the conservatives (such as Reinecke in Leipzig or the Berlin Academics). Two years earlier, after the première of Salome, that stern master of counterpoint Felix Draeseke (1835-1913), estranged by the latest developments, had already poured oil on the flames of an acrimonious dispute between the adherents and opponents of progressive music by publishing his polemical pamphlet Die Konfusion in der Musik. Besides such deadly serious broadsides, there were also acidly humorous articles, especially once Noren, who cleverly and brazenly posed as the thief of two main themes from Ein Heldenleben, had been cleared of all charges in 1908, the reasoning of the court being that the themes in question were not melodies at all. This was followed by a gloss from the pen of Strauss’s biographer Max Steinitzer (1864-1936), a generous patron of Strauss’s fictitious rival Otto Jägermeier who eventually emigrated to Madagascar. This gloss, published in the carnival issue of Die Musik in 1909, added the following lines of doggerel to Strauss’s heroic theme: “Strauss is a great genius, but completely lacking in melody. O, listen to Franz Lehár! Now there’s a man to reckon with!” The same issue ran a “Reformist Harlequinade” from the opposing party, a report of the “144th Cacophonists Convention in Bierheim” that mercilessly pilloried the work of the General German Music Association (ADMV), of which Strauss was chairman. The article brought about years of litigation for its author, the Munich educationalist and composer Edgar Istel (1880-1948). At the end of the convention the Devil himself appears and has his regimental band play “a new cacophonic concoction from our Richard: Ein Höllenleben” (“A Life in Hell”). But the Devil puts an end to the proceedings: “That’s too much even for me! I can’t impose that on my poor souls: they’re damned only to infernal torments. Do all of you compose like this?” To which Richard responds, in broad Bavarian dialect, “With all due respect, Mr. Devil, I think the other chaps compose even more hideously.” At which point they are all expelled from Hell: “The earth opens up and spews out the cacophonists .…”
Quite apart from the legal and satirical collateral damage Kaleidoscope may have occasioned on Earth and in Hell, the piece itself was a virtuosic and multifaceted orchestral work at the zenith of its era, and the scandal fueled its success to great effect. Issued in print by the Leipzig publishers Lauterbach & Kuhn in 1908, the year of the court’s verdict, it was performed from one end of Germany to the other and entered the repertoires of the great orchestras throughout Europe. Its American première was given on 30 October 1908 by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra under Frederick Stock (1872-1942), followed on 12 December by the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Two days later the Berlin Philharmonic played it for the first time under their principal conductor Arthur Nikisch (1855-1922), and the English première was given in Queen’s Hall during a concert of the London Proms on 19 August 1909. The successes proceeded apace: on 11 January 1912 Nikisch conducted in the première of Noren’s B-minor symphony Vita (op. 36) with the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, and in 1912 his Violin Concerto op. 38 saw the light of day and swiftly circled the globe. Only the First World War was able to put an abrupt end to the triumphal progress of Noren’s music. After the war his name, in the absence of exciting new works, quickly vanished from the collective consciousness, as did so many others. Yet two works of his had appeared on the programs of the Berlin Philharmonic in the 1916-17 season: Kaleidoscope, conducted by Hermann Henze (1886-?) on 12 October, and a new Serenade, op. 48, premièred by Felix Weingartner (1863-1942) on 12 February 1917.
After beginning as a Brahmsian, Noren shifted at the height of his success to the camp of his revered Richard Strauss, and he stands side by side with Strauss and Reznicek in the natural virtuosity of his style and his musicianly whimsicality. Today, a full century after the gradual sinking of his star, he is well and truly ripe for rediscovery.
On 28 Mai 1912 Noren’s utterly ingratiating Violin Concerto of 1911 (op. 38) was premièred at the Danzig Tonkünstler Festival by Alexander Petschnikoff (1873-1949). In short order Hugo Kortschak (1884-1957) played the Berlin première with the Berlin Philharmonic (9 October 1912) and the Vienna première with the Vienna Tonkünstler Orchestra (24 November 1912), both times with Noren at the conductor’s desk. During this tour, Kortschak and Noren presented the new concerto with leading local orchestras in many other European cities, including Munich. Later, on 5 December 1913, Kortschak gave the American première in Chicago with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra under its principal conductor, Frederick Stock (1872-1942).
Thereafter Noren’s op. 38 fell completely into oblivion and has been neither rediscovered nor revived to the present day. This can only be called, with full justification, a sorry state of affairs. But it is also a stroke of luck, in that it allows us to awaken music of such quality from century-long somnolence. For this is one of the most valuable forgotten concertos for this instrument from an era dominated, in the German-speaking countries, by Richard Strauss, Hans Pfitzner, and Max Reger, to name only a few who likewise wrote one violin concerto apiece. All sought to surpass, in a wide variety of ways, the tradition founded on the great violin concertos by Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Brahms, Dvořák, Joachim, and Bruch. One way in which Noren surpassed his forebears (as did Reger, though to a lesser extent) was in the work’s duration, which, in the only accessible score today, is given by hand as seventy minutes. This, of course, also sheds light on the work’s appropriate tempos, which will no doubt pose insoluble questions to many of today’s musicians (we need only recall that Wagner needed thirty minutes for his Siegfried Idyll). Tracking down the resultant character must be done very carefully, and it is of course obvious that this requires immense refinement and intensity of delivery. Simply playing the piece very slowly without probing its depth of expression would lead us nowhere. Playing it faster would doubtless do an injustice to the original vision of its performance. These are genuine challenges! In any event, despite its winning musicality, this is anything but a conventional virtuoso concerto, and its peculiarities of melodic and harmonic invention are plain to hear. The first-movement cadenza, for instance, is completely unconventional, being accompanied by strings, horns, woodwind, and harp in the manner of a recitative. Although Noren’s orchestration is very sophisticated, inventive, and surprising, this is a concerto that places the soloist center stage as few other large-scale concertos are willing to do. The writing in the central Intermezzo is a miracle of chamber-music clarity, exuding a deep calm, yet fraught with sharp contrasts of form. The finale displays that side of Noren’s art that some of his contemporaries called a “Slavonic idiom.” It is safe to assume that this accomplished virtuoso was not only familiar with the Tchaikovsky and Dvořák concertos but drew wide-ranging inspiration from other sources as well (Moritz Moszkowski springs immediately to mind). It is a supremely ingratiating concerto for the violinist, while at the same time treating the orchestra superbly in all its separate parts and as a whole. It only remains to be hoped that the potential lurking in this work can be brought to light by a satisfactory performance.
The sole surviving score of Noren’s concerto, originally published by Eos in Berlin-Schöneberg in 1912, passed into the archives of Eos’s successor, Simrock. Now that Simrock’s holdings have been taken over by Boosey & Hawkes/Bote & Bock, there is, logistically speaking, nothing to prevent the work’s worldwide dissemination. We wish to thank the publishers for kindly allowing us to use this sole copy as a master for the present publication.
Translation: Bradford Robinson
For performance materials please contact the publishers Boosey & Hawkes/Bote & Bock, Berlin (www.boosey.com).