Herbert Oppenheimer Piano Music


In 1985 or thereabouts I was searching for piano music in a secondhand bookshop in Newent and came across a small pile of manuscripts, all for piano solo. The signature "Herbert Oppenheimer" on the title pages was distinguished and confident, and the musical writing was clear, ambitious and technically accomplished; one could see at a glance that it was the work of a successful man, and a pianist of some ability. I gathered up what was left of them, (for some had clearly been sold) paid about ten pounds, and after a quick play-through later that week, thought no more about them until a few years later when I was leafing through a copy of "The Rose Annual" for 1969 looking for an article on climbing roses. What I found caused me to have a closer look at the music...

Herbert Oppenheimer, D.H.M.
"On several occasions when I have visited Herbert Oppenheimer at his home at Maidenhead when his large greenhouses, containing a collection of roses, were in full bloom. I have never seen a finer collection by an amateur and his exhibitions at the Spring Shows, alas no longer held, were always most noteworthy. He died on 25th September 1968 in his ninety-third year.

He was a great supporter of the late Courtney Page, who was Secretary of the Society for many years, and on on occasion, I remember, when the Council was criticising Page, he came back specially from Switzerland during his holidays, to take the chair as President.

Oppenheimer was born in Frankfort in 1875 and joined the Society in 1912; he was elected to the Council in 1921 and became President in 1931-2. He was President on two other occasions, in 1937-8 and in 1943-4, unique in the history of the Society.

He started in practice in 1899 when he founded the firm of Herbert Oppenheimer, Nathan and Vandyck and remained in practice about 60 years. (The firm was in existence until 1988; it was a large legal practice-ND ) Apart from his profession and his roses he was also a musician of distinction - indeed, in his youth there was talk of him becoming a professional pianist, but fortunately for us this was decided against and he came to England to become a solicitor. During his later years he devoted more time to his music and wrote a number of short pieces for the piano, which were highly regarded and played by Myra Hess at her concerts."

Bertram Park...Rose Annual, 1969

I would be very interested to hear from anyone who has piano music by Herbert Oppenheimer, or anyone who heard him play. Please send me an email.

HERBERT OPPENHEIMER: the music I have:
Scherzo I, manuscript, Eb
Scherzo II, manuscript, A
Valse, Dm, manuscript
Valse, Am, privately printed
Mazurka, G, privately printed
Six Mazurkas (single volume, commercial quality imprint from "Herbert Oppenheimer, Weir Bank, Bray, Berkshire"):Am, F, Gm, Am, A, C

I will write my impressions of the music after playing it again. There are some similarities with Burrows.

    .......UPDATE.....I am sorry to report that my copies of the Oppenheimer pieces have been mislaid.... they are somewhere in the house but I cannot find them. If they turn up again I'll put a note on this page.

      FURTHER UPDATE........ FOUND - and I'm practising some of it with a view to doing some recordings. I'm working on the Scherzos, the Valses and the separately - printed Mazurka.

      I have also found an online reference to a piece written by Oppenheimer published by Joseph Willams in 1950, entitled 'Storm Predule'; 7 pages. Anyone have a copy? I will supply a copy of his first Scherzo in exchange.

      It seems that Oppenheimer was a Chopin enthusiast; his pieces all have Chopinesque titles, and one can sometimes hear faint echoes of the romatic era in the music. Most of the pieces last about five minutes, and are well structured, the sections being well-defined and nicely finished off; he was careful about detail and had a gift for melody. One can see why they were used by Myra Hess in her recitals.

      His pieces show a fondness for the 'neopolitan' chord, which crops up in many of the pieces. The style is quite florid and needs a good technique and nimble fingers, but there's nothing 'atonal' or 'advanced' about the harmonies; nothing like the virtuostic late Burrows studies or the Burrows sonata. They are closer in style to the Lyric pieces, and around three times the length.

      Click on the thumbnail below for a sample of the manuscript of his scherzo no. 1, and on Scherzo 1 / Valse 1 for the recordings I did in July-Aug 2012.

      ............I also have an interesting article about rose growing by Oppenheimer dating from 1933, entitled 'Doing Things in Time'.

      Judging by the excellence Oppenheimer showed in three fields (founding a well-known legal firm, writing piano music, and becoming three times President of the National Rose Society) , doing things in time was a rule he followed.

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Nigel Deacon / Diversity Website

Footnote....I was pleasantly surprised to see 300 visits to this page during June 2012. I wonder what triggered this level of interest..... please contact me if you are interested in scores.

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