About this Recording
8.572277 - ANDERSEN, J.: Etudes and Salon Music (Dzapo, A.M. Mazzoni)
English 

Joachim Andersen (1847–1909)
Etudes and Salon Music

 

Like so many flautists, I learned of Joachim Andersen by playing his etudes. My high school teacher introduced them to me, and I studied them with every teacher thereafter, including side-by-side play-throughs with Tom Nyfenger, whose brilliant performances inspired my practice. Years later, when I was a doctoral student at Northwestern University, Joachim Andersen became the subject of my major document, and my work expanded to include his compositions for flute and piano. Through all the study, all the performances, and eighteen years of research, including work in Copenhagen, Berlin, New York, and Chicago, I have come to know him well.

Andersen was a spectacular flautist who made his mark in Berlin in the 1880s and early 1890s. While the etudes remain his claim to fame, his rôle as a founding member of the Berlin Philharmonic and an important force during the orchestra’s early years must not be forgotten. One demonstration of the high regard accorded him was his selection as soloist for the orchestra’s inaugural concert on 17 October 1882. For that occasion, he chose Cesare Ciardi’s Le carnaval russe.

Having moved from St Petersburg the previous year, Andersen certainly knew of Ciardi, the renowned Italian flautist who had been a professor at the St Petersburg Conservatory. Le carnaval russe, Ciardi’s best-known composition, is a set of seven virtuoso variations based on a simple little tune from the opera Rogneda, composed by another St Petersburg musician, Alexander Serov. It was probably in preparation for his important performance with the Philharmonic that Andersen composed flamboyant cadenzas to open Ciardi’s composition. The contrast between these overblown cadenzas and the simple theme they introduce is delightfully witty. Clearly, Andersen was having fun, and the Berlin audience loved it. The piece must have been one of his favourites for he played it on at least eleven other occasions during his tenure with the orchestra.

In addition to performing as principal flautist during the Philharmonic’s extraordinarily busy seasons (382 concerts during the 1890–91 season alone), Andersen served as an assistant conductor of the orchestra, beginning in 1885. Two years later Hans von Bülow became Music Director. These were glorious years, the height of Andersen’s career. An indefatigable musician, he maintained an incredibly demanding schedule, playing, conducting, teaching, composing. He wrote most of his etudes while in Berlin, including his first collection, 24 Grosse Etüden, Op. 15. Dedicated to his father, a flautist and the teacher of both Joachim and his equally skilled younger brother, Vigo, these etudes are superb compositions, many of them worthy of inclusion on recital programmes.

Andersen favoured an intricate melody-and-accompaniment texture in the virtuoso etudes he wrote for solo flute, featuring arpeggios and passing tones to create long sections of dazzling perpetual motion. In Op. 15, No. 3, Andersen’s most famous etude, the melody unfolds within a series of hemiolas. Andersen’s rhythmic deftness and his signature harmonic genius, tantalizing the listener by avoiding resolution where one would expect it, demonstrate his mastery. Even more compelling is Etude No. 24, its strong, dramatic toccata sections alternating with melodious, song-like sections, first in D minor, later in D major. Particularly in their minor incarnation, Andersen’s lyrical passages are exquisitely poetic flights of fancy equal to the most inspired moments in Chopin’s Etudes. As with Chopin, the sheer loveliness of Andersen’s invention takes one’s breath away.

The year 1892 marked the tragic turning point in Andersen’s career. Struck with an illness that caused paralysis of the tongue, he was forced to resign his position with the Philharmonic and relinquish his career as a performing flautist. He persevered through the turbulent years that followed and, surprisingly, continued to compose and arrange lighthearted works that belie the difficulties he was facing.

In his adaptations of Isidor Dannström’s Schwedische Polska-Lieder and in his fantasy based on Mozart’s Don Giovanni, Andersen ably recast the musical ideas of others into charming new creations. One can imagine him, with a twinkle in his eye, startling his audience with the bold, dramatic introduction to his Fantasy on Don Giovanni, drawn, ironically, from the tender love duet “La ci darem la mano”, in which the dashing Don seduces the innocent peasant bride Zerlina. As in his other opera fantasies, Andersen selected favourite arias from the opera, here Vedrai carino and Non più andrai, concluding with the most rousing, the “Champagne” aria. Equally enchanting is the third Schwedishe Polska-Lied in E minor, with its intriguing, metrically elusive main theme.

Andersen had a gift for writing musical miniatures and for ennobling them with subtle touches of originality. Die Mühle, Op. 55, No. 4 (The Mill), a bustling, perpetual-motion gem that reminds one of his etudes, offers a striking contrast to Legende, a harmonically complex, deeply moving piece with recitative-like transition sections enriching its otherwise straightforward ternary design. The charming, straightforward, and spirited Tarantella concludes this best-known collection of character pieces with the virtuoso writing for which he had become famous.

Andersen’s wife, Sallie, an American piano student whom he met and married in Berlin, provided the support and comfort that sustained him during his difficult times in the early 1890s. By 1895, when he composed Deuxième morceau de concert, Op. 61, the couple had moved from Berlin and settled in Copenhagen. As he launched a new series of orchestra concerts and struggled to establish himself as a conductor in his native land, he got a boost from his old friend, Paul Taffanel, flute professor at the Paris Conservatoire. Taffanel asked Andersen to compose a short work for the Conservatory’s annual student competition. Delighted with this prestigious invitation, Andersen got to work immediately and within a month completed one of his most gripping and profound works. Unfortunately, his beautifully conceived sonata-form movement was twice the length that Taffanel had requested: “Carried away by the nice proportions you have given the piece, you have forgotten one of the conditions that I mentioned to you. I am referring to the duration: 5–6 minutes—rather 5 than 6—and your piece is 10 minutes long!” For the 1895 competition, Taffanel substituted one of Andersen’s earlier compositions, Concertstück, Op. 3, a work he had played and long admired. Ironically, this was even longer than Op. 61, but presumably Andersen or Taffanel arranged an abbreviated version. Deuxième morceau de concert, Op. 61, served the competition two years later in 1897.

Andersen continued to compose during the final years of his life, but most of his musical work involved conducting the Tivoli Concerts in the summer and the Palace Concerts during the rest of the year, developing the orchestra school he had established in 1896, and critiquing Denmark’s military bands. In 1907 Sallie wrote to her aunt in America lamenting the cold Copenhagen winters and the financial uncertainty that kept her from persuading her husband to give up winter work and retain only the Tivoli position. She went on with the adoring praise that characterized much of her correspondence: “In 1910 he can celebrate the 50th year of musical work, as he appeared before the public as a concert player at the age of 13 in 1860!…[H]e has led a noble self-sacrificing life in service of his art and has always been an honor to his country.” A lighter work load never came to pass: Joachim Andersen worked diligently for two more years and then, following a short illness, died on 7 May 1909, one week before the opening of the Tivoli season, one year before the golden anniversary of his musical début, the anniversary his wife so hoped would lead to a celebration of his contributions to Danish musical life. The celebration may not have happened as she envisioned, but now, a hundred years after her beloved husband’s death, Andersen’s contributions to music command an honoured place not only in Denmark but throughout the world.


Kyle Dzapo


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