Draeseke is one among the throng of “minor” composers now obscured in the shadow of the towering giants of the era – in the case of the romantics from the Austro-German area born in the first half of the 19th Centuy, these would include Mendelssohn (born in 1809), Schumann (1810), Liszt (1811), Wagner (1813), Bruckner (1824) and Brahms (1833) – despite his popular Violin Concerto, Max Bruch (1838) arguably isn’t part of that small sun-basking elite. But nothing is obscure any more in the era of the CD, and Draeseke has received his fair share of discographic attention. And in my experience of the so-called “minor” composers, their music often offers fine rewards. Not all mountains are the Everest, but even the Mont-Blanc affords beautiful vistas.
Unlike other such minor composers like Volkmann, Bruch or Xaver Scharwenka, my first exposure to Draeseke’s music – MDG’s CD with the First Symphony and Piano Concerto – hasn’t been so convincing, though. I’ve found the music episodic, lacking the sense of organic development that you always get with Brahms, and simply lacking memorable tunes that imprint in your memory, and the piano concerto pounds and pounds and pounds as if to hide under the din the absence of substance. But others have found appeal in that music, and I’m not giving up on Draeseke. I’ve just ordered his complete symphonies on Cpo.