1928 Sonata opens in arrestingly brittle fashion. The ride,
we think, will be rocky, the terrain uneven for all the
Weimar ethos. But it soon uncoils from its initially forbidding
appearance and replaces it with a highly effective light
heartedness. The Intermezzo is busy, containing moments
of contrasting reflectiveness in assured accustomed, classically-based
fashion and the broadly extrovert work ends with a cocksure
march and a pile driving conclusion. The performers from
Spectrum Concerts Berlin are violinist Annette von Hehn
and Daniel Blumenthal and they play it with real authority.
I was greatly taken by Hehn’s control of dynamics in the
higher positions in the opening movement and by the languid
piano playing hereabouts as well. A comprehensively fine
case is made for the sonata in this first class traversal.
is amongst Toch’s most popular works, certainly for piano,
for which instrument it was written in 1923. There are
three movements – the first being capricious though flecked
with melancholia in the B section. The central panel is
dapper, sounding not unlike the kind of piano works Martinů was
to write in Paris a little later in its extroversion, but
again pursuing that Toch bipartite melancholic pull in
a way that the Czech composer wouldn’t have done. The final
piece of the three, Der Jongleur
, was to become
something of a encore favourite. It’s a moto perpetuo firecracker.
Who plays it now?
Quintet Op.64 was written just before the Second World
War. Toch gave the movements natty names – The Lyrical
Part, The Whimsical Part, The Contemplative Part and The
Dramatic Part. Flee flowing and flexible he shows his sure
compositional instincts – for balance, proportion, weight
distribution and the absorption of the piano into the string
texture. The Whimsical movement is the scherzo, full of
scurry and a lyrical B section led by the piano and bedecked
with pizzicati strings. The slow movement is rarefied,
limpid, never somnolent and for a long stretch allowing
the string quartet to spin its line unimpeded by the piano.
The finale has a rather enervated fugal passage but then
ratchets the tension to end unequivocally in triumph.
Three Impromptus for Cello were written much later in 1963.
They’re elegiac, obliquely or not so obliquely Bachian but
also possessing a strength of independence- a kind of quizzical
vocal quality that arrests attention. The last of the three
in particular has a keening, rapt intensity. The piece
was originally intended as a birthday present for Piatigorsky
- though its melancholia suggests an ending of things as
much as a celebration. Toch died the following year.
is a first class conspectus of some of Toch’s finest chamber
works – strongly, potently and sensitively realised by
committed forces in fine sound.
American Classics page