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All Listed Works Edition Silvertrust
Carl Futterer

Carl Futterer (1873-1927)

Nationality: Swiss
Born: February 21, 1873, Basel Died: November 5, 1927, Ludwigshafen (age 54)

Octet in C major

(for clarinet, english horn, bassoon, 2 violins, viola, cello and bass)
I. Allegro
II. Andante
III. Scherzo
IV. Allegro
Composed: 1921 (age 47-48)
From Edition Silvertrust

On a recent trip to Europe, we visited the Swiss city of Basel hoping to find some chamber music by the important Swiss composer Hans Huber (1852-1921), who taught at and for many years was director of the Musik-Akademie der Stadt Basel. (Music Academy of the city of Basel) While there, we were shown several manuscripts of the Swiss composer Carl Futterer (1873-1927). There is little information to be had about Futterer, whose name cannot be found in any of the standard reference sources. But during his lifetime, he was not unknown. Born in Basel, he initially studied law and practiced briefly before entering the Music Academy of Basel to study composition with Hans Huber. He had a reputation, both in Switzerland and Germany, as a composer of opera, two of which enjoyed considerable success: Don Gil mit den grünen Hosen (Don Gil with the green pants) and Der Geiger von Gmund (The violinist of Gmund). Most of his music, including two other operas, a sinfonietta, a wind quartet, a clarinet trio, a piano trio, a piano concerto, some instrumental sonatas and this octet were never published during his lifetime and the manuscripts to these works were given to the Musik-Akademie Basel as well as the University of Basel.

Futterer’s Octet, which dates from 1921, calls for a clarinet, an English Horn, Bassoon, 2 Violins, Viola, Cello and Bass. The only other Octet for winds and strings we know of which calls for the same instrumentation is the 1898 Octet of the Viennese composer Heinrich Molbe (pen name for the lawyer and diplomat Heinrich von Bach). It is highly unlikely that Futterer would have known of it. Realistically, the only octet of which most composers might have known or been familiar with was that of Franz Schubert. Schubert’s Octet, with the exception of the English Horn, calls for the same instrumentation as Futterer’s. Schubert uses a French Horn. In any event, Futter’s Octet owes nothing to Schubert. Written in a late Romantic style, one finds many effects that are highly original and sometimes bordering on the bizarre. One hears echoes of Dukas. Unlike Schubert’s Octet in which the writing is almost always ethereal and transparent, Futterer’s is darker, heavier, and at time orchestral, although it is not with out its crystalline moments. Though traditionally tonal, there are brief wild episodes which seem to take leave of any tonality. In four movements, it begins with a genial Allegro. Next comes a dreamy Andante, then a fleet Scherzo and finally an engaging Allegro. What makes the work particularly attractive is its fine writing for all of the voices, each of which are given an important role to play.

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