Robert Kahn – Leaves from the Tree of Life
Ensemble Emigré

February 2021

Robert Kahn was born in Mannheim in 1865 and died in Biddenden, Kent in 1951. How did a composer who impressed Brahms, and who the older composer offered to give lessons to end up in the UK in a small village? Kahn became an influential professor of music at the Berlin Hochschule, and before that had his works performed by the Joachim Quartet, and the Berlin Philharmonic under Hans von Bülow. Kahn was a friend of Joachim, von Bülow, Adolf Busch and Richard Mühlfeld. His compositional style was along the lines of Mendelssohn, Schuman and Brahms, he was an admirer of Reger, whose contrapuntalism no doubt had an influence upon Kahn. He avoided large scale romantic forms, and became famed for his songs, choral works, chamber music and the huge Tagebuch in Tönen, (Music from the Tree of Life) a collection of solo piano works, suites for piano and lieder that run to over 1100 pieces.

Things started to go wrong for Kahn with the rise of the Nazis. Branded ‘degenerate’ by the National Socialists, he was thrown out of his teaching positions, and in 1937 left for the UK, settling in Kent and composing right up to his death. This album is a fascinating introduction to a composer that political extremism and hatred tried and failed to erase.


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