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Gerhart Muench

Gerhart Münch was born on 23 March 1907 in Dresden (Germany). His father was Ernst Robert Münch, a composer and professor at the conservatory. And so Gerhart Münch learned to play the piano from an early age from his father and improved rapidly. He was considered as a piano prodigy and entered the Dresden conservatory in his teens. There he studied piano, organ, composition and music theory. At the age of 14 he performed the Piano concerto No.2 by Liszt with the Dresden Philharmonic Orchestra. A year later he passed the piano concert diploma. To finish school took Gerhart Münch longer. He finally graduated with the Abitur in 1927.

 

Gerhart Münch also composed during his teens and received a first success with his compositions. His "Concerto da camera, for violin, cello, piano and strings" was premiered at the New Music Festival in Dresden under Paul Aron in 1924. His "Concerto for piano and chamber orchestra" was chosen by Paul Hindemith among 200 compositions for a premiere at the Donaueschinger Musiktage in 1926 and conducted there by Hermann Scherchen. And in the same year the manufacturer of the Welte-Mignon reproducing piano commissioned three composers to create works especially for this instrument. The composers were Gerhart Münch, Paul Hindemith and Ernst Toch. The premiere of these works was at the Donaueschinger Musiktage in 1926 as well. And one of his violin compositions was premiered by the painter (and excellent violinist) Paul Klee during the second Bauhaus exhibition in Dessau.

Between 1928 and 1937 Gerhart Münch toured through Europe – mainly Italy and France - and gave concerts and recitals, composed, and socialised with the artists and intellectuals like Jean Cocteau, Aldous Huxley, Ezra Pound or George Antheil. In 1938 Gerhart Münch returned to Germany. He refused to join the Nazi party NSDAP and so had problems to continue his career as a composer and pianist. In 1940 he is drafted for military service, but can return to Dresden in 1944 due to serious health problems. Gerhart Münch survived the bombing of Dresden in 1945 and in 1947 decided to emigrate to the USA. It is likely that he changed the spelling of his name into Gerhart Muench at his arrival there. After a few stopovers Gerhart Muench finally setlled in California. Although he met there many friends like Ernst Krenek, Theodor W. Adorno or Henry Miller he had difficulties to earn a living with his music. At first he had to work as a roadman, but could take over the professorship of Ernst Krenek at a conservatory in Los Angeles. Notwithstanding Gerhart Muench emigrated to Mexico in 1953. It is said that Theodor W. Adorno told Gerhart Muench that he is „too good for this country“ and handed out the advice to move to Mexico.

 

In Mexico Gerhart Muench received the expected appreciation of his musical abilities and could establish an outstanding career as pianist, composer and pedagogue in his last years. He introduced the modern piano compositions by Messiaen, Krenek or Stockhausen to the Mexican classical music scene and was a passionate promoter of the piano work of Alexander Scriabin. Gerhart Muench had his own compositions performed widely and taught composition and piano to a new generation of Mexican musicians like the composers Mario Lavista, Francisco Nunez Montes or the pianist Rodolfo Ponce Montero.

Gerhart Muench died on 9 December 1988 in Michoacan (Mexico).

 

The esteem and value of the pianist and composer Gerhart Muench is two-sided. During his early years in Germany he was regarded as an outstanding pianist and exciting composer. In 1939 a German journalist wrote: „It is difficult to compare Gerhart Münch to someone else. He seems to be the last representative of a vanished race of giants.“ But after his emigration Gerhart Muench and his compositions fell soon into oblivion for unknown reasons. And nowadays he is totally forgotten in Germany.

On the other hand Gerhart Muench was and still is a renowned and highly admired artist in Mexico. Together with Rodolfo Halfter and Conlon Nancarrow he is counted as one of the three most important Mexican composers of the 1950s and 60s. Scores of most of his compositions are published in Mexico and regularly performed there.

Concert pour piano et orchestre (1929)

 

In my possession is an autograph manuscript of a Piano concerto by Gerhart Muench. The work is titled „Concert pour piano et orchestre“ and was composed in 1929 during his time in Paris (France) and Ascona (Switzerland). According to the final note at the end of the score it was finished on 10 September 1929 in Ascona. The work is scored for solo piano and large orchestra without any percussion.

 

It is interesting to notice that this composition was unknown up to now. The Mexican composer Tarsicio Medina Reséndiz, a former student of Gerhart Muench, especially cares for the life and work of Gerhart Muench and published a work catalogue in 1998. This work catalogue lists no composition for 1929 at all. But that isn't too much of a surprise, because it is a common tragedy that manuscripts and information about them were destroyed or got lost in the chaos and destruction of World War II. For example the work catalogue of Mr. Resendiz don't list the previously mentioned violin composition performed by Paul Klee either.

 

My manuscript has an interesting note on the title page pointing to a possible performance of the work. The handwritten pencil note says: „Theatre de Champs-Elysee / Orchestre de Paris / Walther Straram / 1930“. I consulted both the online archives for the concerts of the Orchestre Straram and the performances at the Theatre de Champs-Elysee and could not find a single hint to a work by Gerhart Muench. But I could find two documents that shed some light on the composition and the handwritten note:

The French newspaper „Excelsior“ published an article on 14 March 1929. At that time Gerhart Muench was in Paris and gave a recital at the Salle Gaveau. The article closed with the remark that Gerhart Muench wrote a „large poem for orchestra“ which Walther Straram had received and that this novelty will be performed the next season in Paris (see article on the right side).

 

And it also exists a handwritten letter by Gerhart Muench to Walther Straram in which he asks to postpone the deadline set by Straram who wanted to study his concert for piano and orchestra. He further wrote: „I was called up by Zürich to play in two concerts [...]. Now it seems to me that my new Concert is more adequate for a performance, since it will offer me the chance to present myself to the public at the same time as a pianist and composer. The score is, according to some appraisals, easy to execute and does not require many repetitions."

 

So it seems that the story of this Piano concerto goes like this: In early 1929 Gerhart Muench was in Paris for his recitals. He met or already knew Walther Straram and they agreed about a premiere of a new work for the next season. At that time it was only clear that the composition should be for orchestra, which led to the newspaper statement of a „large poem for orchestra“. In the next month Gerhart Muench composed the piano concerto and finished it in September 1929. It seems that there were distinct deadlines and maybe even a date for a performance. But although Gerhart Muench was in time with his composition the concerto was never performed. It is still unknown why the cooperation with Walther Straram was cancelled and why Gerhart Muench did not perform his Piano concerto later or with another orchestra.

 

So the Piano concerto by Gerhart Muench from 1929 is still awaiting its premiere. To allow musicians to study this important composition I have typeset the manuscript and can present here the full score for free download:

 

Muench_PC.pdf
PDF-Dokument [1.5 MB]

I also prepared all the orchestral parts and the solo part. So please find below the piano solo part for personal studies. If you are planning to perform the work and need the orchestral parts, please drop me a line.

Muench_PC_PianoSolo.pdf
PDF-Dokument [599.3 KB]

work catalogue till 1947

 

Due to the fact that it is little known about the compositions by Gerhart Muench from the time before his emigration in 1947, I compiled a chronological work list till 1947 for information purpose. For a detailed list of the later compositions by Gerhart Muench I recommend the publication „Gerhart Muench: Catalogo de obras“ by Tarsicio Medina Reséndiz.

1923 Concerto da camera, for violin, cello, piano and strings
1924 Concerto for piano and chamber orchestra
1926 Six polyphonic etudes, for player piano
1926 Le cimetiere des tetes en bois, music for puppetry with ballet dancers by Emile Malespine
1926 [unknown title], for violin
1928 Sonata for piano
1929 Concert pour piano et orchestre
1935 Etudes for piano
1935 La canzona de gli uccelli, for violin and piano
1938 Sonata for cello and piano
1939 Kreisleriana nova, for piano
1939

Trio for violin, cello and piano

1939 Nachtlied, for baritone and piano
1939

An die Melancholie, for baritone and piano

1940

Fünf Lieder, for baritone and piano

1940

Capriccio variato, for piano and orchestra

1942

Concert d'ete, for piano and chamber orchestra

1943

Concert d'hiver, for piano solo

1946

Marsyas und Apoll, for flute and piano

1947

Les Reves, for flute and piano

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