Guild is to be congratulated again for their enterprise in bringing
to us another practically unknown figure. I must admit that the
Swiss composer Volkmar Andreae has been a new name to me. Indeed
I was so ignorant of him that I vaguely thought recollected that
he was named ‘Andreae Volkman’ (!) but as Robert
Matthew-Walker says in his fascinating booklet notes Andreae’s “music
manifestly does not deserve the neglect which has befallen it”.
The First Quartet
is, for some reason placed third on
the disc. It falls into four movements with German titles which
I will attempt to translate as we go along. You could be forgiven
for feeling that Richard Strauss is looking over the younger
composer’s shoulder. It is a very neatly balanced work
formally. The outer movements are of almost the same length and
share some material. The inner ones are also of equal length,
so that after two movements you have reached the exact half-way
point. Movement 1 (‘quite fast tempo’) is a slightly
wayward Sonata-form allegro and its opening idea returns in the
finale. Movement two is a Scherzo (‘fast as possible’)
which is almost in arch-form. Its B section is reminiscent of
a stamping peasant dance which falls, it seems to me, somewhere
between Dvořák and Bartók. The slow third
movement (marked ‘very free in performance’) is not
especially memorable but is basically cello-led. The finale (Lively-moving)
is partially fugal and earnest but stretches its material about
as far as it deserves. Nevertheless the quartet, which weighs
in at well over the half-hour is worth getting to know but was
obviously written by a young composer who has a tendency to be
a little too prolix.
The Second Quartet
which opens the disc dates from four
years after the Great War. Stylistically Andreae has moved on.
Nevertheless it could probably thought of as a conservative work.
Cast in four movements the first and third are of equal length
- the second and fourth being a Scherzo and a carefree finale
being shorter and lighter. The elegiac slow movement is quite
intense and moving and acts as a suitable foil to the two either
side of it. I was trying to think of a composer that might be
invoked as an influence and it is quite difficult. Only Gabriel
Fauré vaguely came to mind. The booklet notes mention
Albéric Magnard. It would be ‘over-egging the pudding’ to
say that the sound-world of the composer is completely original.
Anyway Andreae’s style moved on again and French influences
did increase further ahead of those early Germanic ones.
Sandwiched between Andreae’s two quartets is a brief Quartet
for flute and string trio
. Written in 1945, again it would
have appeared conservative yet one cannot quite think when else
it might have been composed. It consists of four movements. The
form is rather unusual, beginning with a light and airy brief
preamble followed by a short Adagio. Andreae then re-opens as
it were, his opening Molto vivace
before a beautiful slow
first half to the last movement. This in turn flies off into
the breezy Molto Vivace
again. No note is wasted and it
is all over far too soon. The performance is also delightful;
and catches the mood perfectly. The language lies somewhere between
Poulenc and something pastoral almost Vaughan Williams-like.
I really fell in love with this piece. Anna Noakes’ tone
quality and phrasing are quite delicious and add to the wonder
I must comment on Robert Matthew-Walker’s booklet notes.
Although of some interest I do feel that for a composer so little
known as Volkmar Andreae a little more biography or indeed musical
analysis and insight would have been helpful. A discursive overview
of the String Quartet medium or as he calls ‘The Historic
Perspective’ is unnecessary and represents a wasted opportunity.
The recording is excellent and the performance marvellously committed
and intelligent. It is difficult to imagine how they could be
improved. One feels as if the Lochrian ensemble (whose varied
biography is offered in booklet) has known this music for many
years. Perhaps their baptism in recording of the Piano Trios
two years ago (GMCD7307 - see review
) has enabled such confident
playing in such unfamiliar repertoire.
All in all this disc is worth exploring and I hope for more to
see also review by Rob