Henselt: Piano Works

Henselt: Piano Works

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  • 140 pages (132 containing music)
  • Works from every period of Henselts artistic life
  • Introductory essay and detailed source commentary
  • Printed on heavy duty eco-friendly sustainable paper (120 gsm)
  • Also available as download

Today, Adolf von Henselt is remembered only by a handful of devoted fans. However, his music is among the most beautiful that has been written for the piano: poetic, lyrical, but also full of grandeur and bravura. It is due to Henselt's fear of failure that his music has disappeared from our collective memory. Once, his music was played all over Europe, by the greatest virtuosos such as Clara Schumann. This collection contains both some of his most difficult works and some works that are playable by most amateurs.


What's it like?

Style. The music of Henselt can be used as an alternative or complement to the music of Chopin and Schumann. It is music from the same period and as such shares a number of characteristics. However, Henselt's music is original and differs quite a bit from Chopin and Schumann, just as Chopin's differs from Schumann.

Character. Henselt's music is characterised by a delicate melancholy. It is quite subtle, but always latently present. That is why he got the somewhat unfortunate nickname Chopin of the North. Chopin undoubtedly exerted some influence on him, but Henselt had already developed his own style before he could have come into contact with Chopin's music. Unlike Edward Wolff, Henselt is not a copy-cat, but a master in his own right.

Technique. Henselt had an unmistakable influence on Rachmaninov and other great Russians: huge chords, compelling melodies and full counterpoint. Not surprising, since Henselt is the founder of the Russian school. Large and especially flexible hands are a prerequisite.

Originality and quality. Henselt's music is of the highest quality and he must be considered a composer of the highest order. His music is excellently written for piano. The music is difficult, but difficulty is never an end in itself. As with Chopin and Schumann, the emotional intensity of the music goes along with difficulty.

Difficulty. Much of Henselt's music is of great or even extreme difficulty. Much, but not all. This collection contains four major works and ten minor works. Two of the major works, the Variations de Concert and the Ballade, are of extreme difficulty. The two other major works, the Poème d'Amour and the Grande Valse, are difficult, but suitable for most serious amateurs. Of the ten smaller works, the Etude, op. 2 no. 6 and the Impromptus no. 2 and 4 offer serious challenges for the very advanced amateur. The other 8 works are playable by most advanced amateurs.


This album of 134 pages contains the following works.


Variations de Concert. Henselt’s first opus is a magnificent set of variations, exploring novel ideas and techniques not seen anywhere else. Difficulty 10/10

Etudes. Included are four studies, each demonstrating a different aspect of Henselt’s versatile set. The Etude op. 2 no. 6If I Were A Bird” is his most famous study. It is a perfect blend between featherlight technique and musicality. It’s been recorded by giants like Rachmaninov and Godowsky. The Etude op. 2 no. 11 is a soothing melody over large arpeggios in the left hand. The Etude op. 5 no. 5 expresses the sombre thoughts and feelings associated with home sickness. It’s a very sad piece of music, slowly building to an emotional climax. The Etude op. 5 no. 8 clearly demonstrates the connection with Rachmaninov, who was a pupil of Zverev, Henselt’s pupil. Difficulty 7-10/10

Poème d’Amour. This thoroughly romantic work is dedicated to Rosalie, Henselt’s wife. The melodie occurs in the instances, first innocent, then in a grand fashion and finally in an indescribable way, where both hands accompany the melody in large descending arpeggios. Difficulty 9/10

Impromptus. These smaller pieces are delightful and atmospheric. Ever so melancholic, Henselt doesn’t fall in the trap over false sentimentality. The third is especially sad. Difficulty 7-10/10

Petites Valses. Many late romantic composer-pianists wrote smaller character pieces in the style that is introduced by Henselt: melody in the right hand, that is accompanied by a chromatic scale, also in the right hand. Difficulty 5/10

Grande Valse. A ballad in three-quarter time, this must be the most accomplished solo waltz written in the first half of the 19th century. The conclusion is thrilling with that special kind of very subtle chromaticism only Henselt can achieve. Difficulty 8/10

Ballade. Henselt's Ballade is stately and noble, with a full range of emotions, cantilene melodies and occasional outbursts of anger. Pianistically, the work introduces many techniques for the first time, but only in order to express deeper musical thoughts and emotions in a pianistic way. Difficulty 10/10



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