Far and Near
Hugo Kaun? Never heard of him! During his lifetime, however, the Berlin-born Kaun enjoyed considerable success as a composer and as an esteemed choir director – though in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, far from the capitals of European music culture. The Berolina Ensemble is now initiating his long-overdue rediscovery. His Octet, Piano Quintet, and String Quintet No. 1 display an independent character skillfully bringing together the traditions of German romantic music to form a very original expressive style.
Old and New
In the United States Kaun lent his support to the cultivation of these traditions. Kaun’s support of the works of Brahms and Bruckner motivated the Chicago Symphony Orchestra to occupy itself more thoroughly with these masters, who had not yet become popular favorites in the New World. Kaun’s engagement may not have not have been entirely without self-interest: the renowned orchestra also went on to include his own compositions in its programs – a fact enabling us to draw initial inferences about the high compositional quality of his music.
Forth and Back
In the end, however, love of home won out. Despite all his triumphs in America, Kaun returned to his native Germany in 1902 and initially had to cope with many a disappointing setback. It was only gradually that he obtained success, and with time his oratorio oeuvre in particular gained great popularity. Kaun’s chamber music composed in America evidently also met with recognition from his great models. It was not without visible pride that Kaun mentioned in a letter that the great Johannes Brahms himself had expressed great praise for his String Quintet No. 1 – very justly so, as the Berolina Ensemble impressively demonstrates.
Here and Now
Over time Kaun’s old connections brought many young Americans to him; they came in quest of the atmosphere of “Old Europe” in order to round off their education and studied with him in his home. The Berolina Ensemble successfully revives this atmosphere – very much to the pleasure of their listeners, who find themselves right in the midst of tonal things on this Super Audio CD. Their rehabilitation of Kaun’s chamber music is an absolutely rewarding discovery!