Friedrich Nietzsche is mostly remembered for his philosophical writings, but played piano and composed music (mostly for piano) since boyhood. That he was inspired by Wagner and even attempted to assist him, is well konwn, but he withdrew his plans after being disappointed by Wagner's personality and the Bayreuth society. He loved Brahms as much as Schumann or Wagner, which probably was part of the problem ... Brahms and Palestrina were performed at his funeral.
73 compositions are documented, about 50 have survived, some are fragmentary. Most of it has an improvisational character - Nietzsche had piano lessons in his youth and reportedly was an accomplished pianist playing Beethhoven sonatas and transciptions of symphonies, but was self-taught as a composer. Michael Krücker, who specialises in resurrecting forgotten piano music from the romantic era - documented, among others, by CDs with works by Moscheles, Dreyschock, and Kalkbrenner on the NCA label - presents a varied program of works for solo piano, including some of the fragments as transitions between pieces, playing a modern Yamaha concert grand. He used different historic pianos, all impeccably preserved great sounding instruments, on the three previous discs mentioned, and I expected him to use another one here. Of course, the sound of grand pianos in use at the time Nietzsche fell ill (1884) is rather close to that of modern instruments - and Krücker's experience with historic pianos shows in his sensitive use of touch, dynamics, and tone colour, being expressive without being as excessive as most of his colleagues performing music from the late 19th century. The booklet notes give insight into what playing and composing music meant to Nietzsche - expressing his feelings, impressions, and states of mind is an important element. Do not expect formal masterpieces, not even in the (rather short) piece labelled "sonata", but a fascinating glimpse at one of the important personalities of the second half of the 19th century.
Sound is powerful, with wide dynamics, the piano sounds direct and powerful without being removed too far from the listener. The half star I deducted from the performance rating is only for the use of a modern piano - if you listen to Krücker's excellent recordings on period instruments you will get the idea. Musically, his playing leaves nothing to be desired.
Sonics (S): 5/5
Review by miguelito54 July 9, 2008