Kirchner portrait
Theodor Kirchner, titel
     The saxon Theodor Kirchner (1823 – 1903), who composed mainly pianistic miniatures, was called to Winterthur in the year 1843 to start as an organist at the church by recommendation of Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy. After moving to Zürich in 1862 he led the «Abonnement» concerts and a mixed choir next to his job as a pianist and as per 1871 as an organist at St. Peter’s church. He occasionally gave concerts with Clara Schumann-Wieck as a pianist, and he was friends with Johannes Brahms, Wilhelm Baumgartner and the medical doctor Theodor Billroth. Kirchner supported Schumann and Brahms, his examples, in Switzerland and put in circulation a lot of one and twohanded piano arrangements. 1872 he, who was tended by the publishers Jacob Rieter-Biedermann in Winterthur and the Hug brothers in Zürich, left the country to work for princess Maria von Sachsen-Meiningen as private pianist and later as music teacher in Würzburg, Leipzig, Dresden and finally Hamburg where he died in poverty.

     What Schumann said in a commentary about the 10 songs op. 1 by Kirchner in 1843
     «In the youngest german forrest of singers the first blossoms of a very young composition talent belong to the most characteristic ones.
     …The predominant character of the songs is enraptured, yearning, the choice of poetry (by Heine, C. Beck, J. Mosen) an equivalent. The sweet dwelling in spring sensations, the longing feeling to want to wander in moutain and valley like our poets have so often so nicely written about, that’s where the young musician likes to dwell and such poetry are the best…»
also applies for the 3 selected songs on this CD:

First edition «Preludes»      Accordingly to Schumann’s statement, the main accent lies mostly in the accompanyment. This is proven in the expressive interludes in the Goethe musical setting «Nähe des Geliebten» op. 68, 1882, as well as the Rückert-song «Wie lange?» op. 81 Nr. 1 with charming pedal-notes, that was published 6 years later.

     Amongst the 1200 single pieces for piano the 16 preludes op. 9, which were composed in Winterthur and published by Rieter-Biedermann in two volumes in 1959, take in a special place. The pieces are dedicated to Clara Schumann. In her thank you-note she wrote the following: «I have found a lot of very nice passages which I liked a lot, but I cannot hide the fact that there are spots which are hard and which I cannot overcome».
They belong to the most concentrated and expressive piano compositions by Kirchner.
     The power of the 25-bars entry piece, the warm cantability of No. 3, the highly linear and totally different cantable 10th prelude, the brillancy of No. 11 as well as the geniusflash of the 7th prelude with its pathetical outbursts, that predicts Alexander Skrjabins’s Etude op. 8 No. 12 (Patetico), build together a cosmos of expressivity, that could not be more differenciated or pianistically attractive.

     In his memorial address, Adolf Steiner has also pointed out Kirchner’s peculiar position in the German music history:

     «In the huge building of her boarders she will not administer him a beautiful room, instead he will be staying in a little cosy turret-room with a view on beeches and oaks, on a flowing, shimmering water and a fading horizon-line. There are not many that will find the way to him, but the ones that don’t shy the trouble to go and see him will be rewarded by lots of marvellous and hidden things.»

On September 30, 1851 Kirchner wrote to Blanca Amsler:

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     «…In a few minutes Schumann is going to pick me up for a walk, then I will have to pack (one of my favorite activities) and other unpleasant things. I am looking forward to travelling by night, one can sink into one’s thoughts so well, day-dream, and still gets on.
     Everywhere new people with other interests, and yet the same story: everyone is self-concious, all believe that they, their village or city is the navel of universe. «Life is wonderful, queen!» and especially travelling. Schumann toasted to our ideals last night. So our ideals shall live! Good people and good art! Fare well»

Walter Labhart    
Illustration: Dokumentationsbibliothek Walter Labhart CH-5304 Endingen AG

© Vision of Paradise, Music + Art Ruth Juon and Evi Juon, Switzerland