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Helene Liebmann (1796-1835)

original edition of Liebmann's Piano Quartet, Op 13 Hélène Liebmann, née Riese, was a German pianist and composer. She was a child prodigy in both activities. Aged ten, she gave a concert in her home town of Berlin, astonishing the audience, who acclaimed her as a brilliant pianist. Her Piano Sonata Opus 1 was published when she was 15. She was born in Berlin and studied with Clementi's pupil Franz Lauska. According to the dedications on her Op 11, and 12, she later studied with Ferdinand Ries, a former Beethoven pupil. Sometime around 1814 she married, and used her married name on publications after that. It is thought that she and her husband moved first to Vienna and then London in about 1816. No information about whether she continued to compose after 1819 is available; the next reference to her is in Clara Wieck's (the future Clara Schumann) diary, stating that Liebmann was present at a Hamburg concert of Clara's in 1835.

Liebmann's published works include two sets of songs, several sonatas, variations and miscellaneous piano works, two violin sonatas, two piano trios and one piano quartet - the piano is in all her works. They are mostly dedicated to teachers and family members; much of her music is available in library collections and in the archives of her principal publisher C. F. Peters. The Piano Sonatas Ops 1 and 2 received a lengthy review in an 1811 issue of the Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung. The reviewer declared his dread in anticipation of finding "ladies" music, a weak imitation of that written by men, but immediately stated that the music warranted comparison with the early compositions of the great masters. He specially commended the nobility in the first movement of her Op 1, and the inventiveness and brilliance of its concluding Variations. The same review also lavished praise on the composer's Op 4 Kennst du das Land? - a setting from Goethe's Wilhelm Meister. The Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung also later published favourable reviews of her Violin Sonata Op 9 and the two piano trios, recommending them as providing enjoyable entertainment for both performers and listeners. Her musical style owes much to Mozart and Haydn.


Click on these works for more details below:

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Grand Quatuor pour Pianoforte, Violon, Viola et Violoncelle, Op 13
1. Allegro; A flat major. 2 Andante un poco lento; F minor. 3. Presto; A flat major.

The title is reflected is some grandiose flourishes which open the piece. Agile piano writing, combined with conversational part writing make this an attractive piece. The expressive slow movement, in the minor, leads straight into a merry Rondo Finale. The music is not in performing condition yet - for example, there is no score. I have plans to publish it in due course.


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Grand Trio pour le pianoforte, violon et basse (violoncelle), Op 11
1. Allegro; A major. 2. Andante; D major. 3. Polonoise, A major.

There is some confusion over her opus numbers, Op 11 appears for both the Cello Sonata and the Grand Trio in A. This Trio may actually be her Op 13, even though it was reviewed by the AMZ in 1817 as her Op 11. Liebmann clearly had poise and energy aplenty, and an excellent chamber music sense, with all three parts contributing to the nusical conversation. The whole has a Haydnesque atmosphere. The opening Allegro is full of ideas, and the cello matches the violin with vivacious running semiquaver passages. The serene Andante offsets the Polonoise to great effect. (Yes she really did spell it like that; the French spelling indicates an artistocratic background.) A polacca appears in several of her other compositions and was a popular genre with 18th century German composers. Here she makes persuasive use of the repetitive rhythmic figures. The whole piece is full of grace, and very evocative of its period.
We gave the UK premiere in March 2001 - it made an excellent concert opener. Hildegard published my edition in 2003 (www.hildegard.com).


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Sonata for cello & Piano, Op 11 (1806)
1. Allegro; B flat major. 2. Adagio ma non troppo; F major. 3. Andante con Variation; B flat major.

The Sonata is interesting for the equality between the cello and the piano, more so than the earlier Beethoven Op 5 Sonatas. Sometimes the instruments alternate bar by bar, or they take turns to accompany each other's melodies. The slow movement has a beautiful main tune, with a dramatic middle section. The Finale is a set of seven stylish Variations on Mozart's duet La Ci Darem La Mano from Don Giovanni.
I have performed this piece; it was very well received (the fact that everybody knows the theme of the last movement is a bonus). It is well written for the cello, and I appreciated the fact that the piano does not play an accompanying role; it is a true duo sonata.
It is published by Grancino Editions: 2 Bishopswood Rd, London N6 4PR; or 1109 Avenida Del Corto, Fullerton, CA 92633 (tel 714 870 5842)

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