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Norbert Burgmüller composed between 1825 and 1836 nearly fifty works. His orchestral works comprise two Symphonies (c minor op.2 and D major op.11), a Piano Concerto (f sharp minor op.1), an Overture (f minor op.5) and four Entr’Actes for small orchestra (op.17). Among his chamber music are four String Quartets (d minor op.4 and op.7, A flat major op.9 and a minor op.14), a Duo for Clarinet and Piano (E flat major op.15) and a Ständchen (Serenade) for Clarinet, Viola and Gitarre. The piano music is represented by a Sonata (f minor op.8), a Rhapsody (b minor op.13), a Polonaise (F major op.16) and a Waltz (E flat major, WoO). His vocal music is now partly lost (one song, several shorter pieces for male choir, a cantata, a Psalm and an Opera Fragment “Dionys”) but nearly two dozens of Songs (mainly published in four volumes opp. 3, 6 10 and 12) have survived. The above mentioned opera numbers are misleading concerning chronology.
Burgmüllers early works show great promise, although they are partly influenced by Beethoven and Spohr. In his mature pieces, Burgmüller reaches quite a personal style which sometimes resembles Schubert, of whose works he knew next to nothing. At his best moments, he forshadows a later Schumann and even Brahms. His music combines melodies which long linger in the memory, with a highly individual harmonic language and original formal solutions.
- Orchestral Works / Musikproduktion Dabringhaus & Grimm MDG 335 0817-2
- Piano Sonata / Genesis GCD 108
- Clarinet Duo / ASV DCA 732
- Songs / Musikproduktion Dabringhaus & Grimm MDG L 3244
Norbert Burgmüller was born as the third son of a musical family. His father was the founder of the Lower Rhine Music Festivals (since 1818), while the mother was associated with Beethoven and a fine pianist and singer. His elder brother Friedrich is still known due to his Piano Etudes. Norbert was educated by his father and later by Spohr and Hauptmann at Kassel. In 1830 he returned to Düsseldorf and lived in a circle of musicians, poets and painters. Among them were his friends Mendelssohn, Grabbe, Rethel and Schirmer. He conducted an amateur orchestra, wrote musical critics, appeared as a pianist and composed his works. None of them was published during his lifetime. Suffering from epilepsia since his youth, he died in a mineral bath.
Thanks mainly to Robert Schumann, who enthusiastically praised his works, Burgmüllers music could not fall totally in oblivion. In the late 1830s and during 1863 and 1865 most of them were published posthumously. Performed and written about from time to time, since around 1980 they are receiving more and more interest in public and a Burgmüller Renaissance seems at last dawning.