Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Florian Hermann's time and place

Just a few days ago I was obsessively researching the cryptic life of Florian Hermann (Russ. Флориан Герман), whose "Valse Hommage" has been remixed into the 1884 Russian Gypsy romance hit "Dark Eyes" ("Черные глаза"), a timeless tune which in turn inspired several Russian and Argentine tangos such as Francisco Canaro's "Ojos negros que fascinan" and Florindo Sassone's "Ojos negros". The music history sites are full of wild legends about who Hermann was, or where and when he lived.
With the titles, themes, dedications, and lyrics sources of Florian Hermann's compositions, it didn't take me long to realize that he lived and taught in and around Vilnius, Lithuania (then Wilno, Poland). But for some reason I didn't make the next logical step - to triangulate between historic events in his composition titles, and dates of publications, to pinpoint the years of his career.
Fixing this omission now.
St. Petersbourg chez A. Büttner, Plate 1507 (pdf)
From "Starinnye Noty" website

The complete listing of Florian Hermann's hundred-odd works, from the catalogs of Gutheil, a leading Russian music publisher, is available oline, e.g. here  but the earliest listing of Hermann's compositions can be found in a St. Petersburg catalog of A. Büttner published jointly with D. Rahter of Hamburg between 1879 and 1881 (the two music publishers merged in 1879, and select works of Hermann's begin to appear on other catalogs digitized in Google Books beginning in 1881). Some subjects are easy to put a date on: Hermann's op 37 and 39 are marches "Beyond the Balkans" and "Totleben" ((Забалканскiй Маршъ & Тодлебенъ-Маршъ), which refer to the events of the 1877-1878 when General Totleben lead the famous defense of Plevna and then the whole Russian Balkan campaign against Turkey. A later-period "date-able" composition is a march on the occasion of coronation of Nicholas II (1896) (doesn't have an op. number). Post-1900 catalogs do no add any new titles, therefore we can conclude that the composer's career of Florian Hermann lasted from the 1870s to the 1890s. Valse Hommage is op. 21. So, while we can't pinpoint the exact data of composition of "Valse Hommage", it ought to date to the early-to-mid 1870s

And this how it would sound a hundred years later. Vladimir Vystotsky, 1975:

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