> Schumann - Bruch [JW]: Classical Reviews- March 2002 MusicWeb-International

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Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)
Marchenerzahlungen Op 132
Max BRUCH (1838-1920)
8 Pieces for Clarinet, Viola and Piano Op 83
Michel Lethiec, clarinet
Vladimir Mendelssohn, viola
Roberte Mamou, piano
Recorded Conservatoire de Tourcoing March 1995
PAVANE ADW 7334 [53.38]


Experience Classicsonline

These congenial pieces make good disc mates. Both drink deeply of Romantic waters and it is salutary to remember that although over fifty years separates them in terms of compositional date Schumann from 1853, Bruch 1908-9 Bruch was already fifteen when the Marchenerzahlungen were premiered. This was an auspicious event in a desperate year the premiere was given by Clara Schumann, the violist Becker and clarinettist Kochner and the last active creative year of his life. A few days after the score was published, in February 1854, Schumann flung himself into the Rhine and endured the torment of the Endenich asylum. Bruchs unfettered romanticism meanwhile just outlasted the First World War and he wrote these eight pieces primarily for his clarinettist son Max Felix though the actual instrumentation seems never to have been fully determined he intended using a harp at one stage and alternative more conventional instrumentation was published for violin, viola and piano. Its premiere was heard by Fritz Steinbach - the wily Bruch had hoped hed be there and want to perform them and he was duly impressed writing the composer an adulatory letter comparing his clarinettist son with Muhlfeld, of the Meiningen Orchestra, one of the great instrumentalists of his time. Bruch always advised against playing them together in concert mainly, one supposes, because of their individual unity of expression. In fact there is some fine colouristic writing and much lyrical expressiveness from the clarinet and viola with the piano assuming its more obvious accompanying role. Only one has any affinity with folk music, No 5, a Rumanische Melodie. Of real distinction is the third, an andante con moto, in which successively viola and then clarinet take turns with lyrical themes tinged with real depth. I especially admired violist Vladimir Mendelssohns way with his second theme and his beautiful exchanges with Michel Lethiecs pellucid clarinet <sample 1>. The final sonata form Moderato caps this excellent work, by turns withdrawn, lyrical, and affectionate. Schumanns cycle of four pieces that comprise the Marchenerzahlungen are variously animated, gracious and tender. It would taker a hard heart not to respond to the third of them <sample 2> a gorgeously affecting duet for viola and clarinet with an articulate piano accompaniment that is beautifully played here. The pieces are well balanced, from the dreamy first and the insistent clarinet-led scherzo-like second through the tender third to the triumphant concluding Lebhaft complete with its contrastive little central section. Truly musical performances from all three players never over assertive or feyly withdrawn but instead distinctively alive to all the moods of these engaging pieces.

Jonathan Woolf


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