ALBERT RUDOLPH FAESY (1837 - 1891)
Albert Rudolph Faesy was born in Zurich on 1st April, 1837, the son of the owner of a department store and city councillor. He had his first musical training with Franz Abt and Alexander Müller, the latter a friend of Richard Wagner, and in 1856 was admitted to the Leipzig Conservatory, three years later moving to Vienna. For further study he also travelled to Dresden in 1860, returning there again in 1868, after a period in Zurich. He died on 5th May, 1891, in Konstanz, in Germany, where he had settled in 1879. These few dates constitute all that is known of this composer.
Since Zurich had been Wagner's first home in Switzerland between 1849 and 1858 and since a printed score of Wagner's Tannhäuser with the composer's own corrections was found in Faesy's library, it is almost certain that Faesy must have known Wagner personally, but Wagner's own writings and letters do not reveal anything about this Swiss composer, 24 years his junior. At that time, however, Faesy probably had still to write his first orchestral work. The four tone-poems recorded here, which presumably make up his complete orchestral output, were almost certainly written between 1870 and 1890, after Wagner had already left Switzerland. In 1860, Albrecht, a Vienna music publisher, had printed Sehnsucht, a setting by Faesy of a poem by Schiller for baritone and piano, which may have been submitted to Wagner for criticism. All other works by Faesy remain in manuscript form. An Elegie for voice and piano, on a text by Friedrich von Matthisson, seems to have been orchestrated later, but is now apparently lost. Two more vocal works with piano, also on texts by Matthisson, three compositions for piano solo and the four orchestral pieces of this disc constitute the surviving body of Albert Faesy's compositions, all preserved today in the Zurich Zentralbibliothek. In the same collection are also found Faesy's detailed study of Beethoven's Symphonies and an incomplete, comprehensive monograph on the Zurich musician, publisher, writer and politician Hans Georg Nägeli (1773-1836), showing that Faesy was a man of high culture, perhaps with Nägeli as his spiritual example. In a list of Faesy's private music library, published for the sale after his death, a considerable and varied quantity of orchestral scores, vocal scores and albums for piano are mentioned. Specialist books on music, among which are works by and on Berlioz, Weber, Schumann, Liszt and Wagner, give us a deeper insight into Faesy's musical interests and taste.
While not a master of melodic invention, Faesy reveals himself as skilled in instrumentation, harmony and counterpoint, and a gifted creator of dramatic atmosphere. In orchestration he shows a preference for well-constructed and varied tutti sections, rather than harmonizations of solo melodies with a conventional accompaniment. Special instrumental effects occur briefly and only if strictly necessary. Writing for single instruments, whether separately or within the same group, is expertly carried out, in perfect balance with the whole ensemble, producing either a full orchestral sound in which woodwinds and brass predominate, or suggesting an almost indefinable, blurred atmosphere of mystery or tension through effective string figuration. Faesy's orchestral pieces may be imagined as conceived to accompany solemnly staged dramatic or edifying tableaux vivants. The fact that the melodic construction of these monumental tone-poems is rather simple may justify the intention to give them a monolithic aspect. The use of Wagnerian leitmotif is also quite different, employed not to build up dynamic musico-dramatic action, but to be clearly heard and understood, and finally to involve the listener in the whole musical event, from beginning to end. These works may be subdivided into various sections, but the few intermediary pauses appear no more than little crevices in a solitary rock. In most cases, Faesy's short leitmotifs, which are used as musical cells, not as melodies, build up the whole musical material of a piece; variations or, rather, transformations occur to constitute the theme or the accompanying musical material of a following section, scarcely or not even developed within the same episode. These simple motifs become occasionally secondary and/or contrasting themes through clever structural and harmonic changes, including the then relatively new technique of inversion. In an almost revolutionary way, Faesy creates a straightforward musical language, almost without development technique, giving his musical pieces a somehow terse unity. It could alternatively be suggested that Faesy has created his own development technique, by continuing thematic transformations within separate orchestral episodes. Wagner and Liszt had actually not been tempted to approach so succinct a musical style, which reaches even further dimensions, especially in extended ostinato sequences, anticipating the minimalism of Philip Glass. If Bruckner's music may be described as naive, but in the most positive sense of the word, through its puzzling, but avant-garde simplicity and appeal, Faesy's music shows similar aspects.
Without the music of Wagner and Liszt, of course, Faesy's cannot be imagined, but perhaps his intention was simply to do something different, appealing to a larger, less elite audience than that of Bayreuth. The condition of Faesy's manuscripts makes us guess that these works were never performed, but they would have certainly left a tremendous impression on the audiences. Once these works are heard, Faesy's personality appears to us less mysterious, as he does by studying the only portrait of him to survive, a profile in silhouhette, made probably during his student years. His music reveals a strongpersonality, able to fight lifelong for a lost cause, like so many other gifted composers, whose scores still await to be rediscovered, and which may encourage some of us to re-write more than one chapter of the history of music, which, with its classifications of period and style, remains nothing more than the glorification of the winners.