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Volume 1 Crotchet   Review

Robert FUCHS (1847-1927)
Complete Violin Sonatas: Volume 2

Violin Sonata No.2 in D major Op.33 (1883)
Violin Sonata No.3 in D minor Op.68 (1901)
Violin Sonata No.6 in G minor Op.103 (1915)
Ursula Maria Berg (violin)
Oliver Triendl (piano)
Recorded Hochschule für Musik, Karlsruhe, September and October 2003
THOROFON CTH2512 [71.04]


Unfairly overlooked as one of Brahms’ circle or as the composer of the moderately known Serenade in D major, Robert Fuchs had his own quietly distinctive voice and it’s heard particularly effectively in the series of violin sonatas he wrote between 1877 and 1919. The second volume in Thorofon’s series is devoted to the second, third and sixth in the cycle and their dedications range from the Old World, Joachim (who declined the premiere of the Third), to the Heir Apparent, Adolf Busch, to whom Fuchs dedicated the Sixth.

The Second dates from 1883 but shows no trace of almost contemporaneous Franckian cyclicism. Indebted though it is to Brahms – it’s idle to pretend otherwise – there’s a vein of lyric melancholy that runs through Fuchs’ music that, fused as it is with an almost lied-like affection, gives his muse an especially warm and sympathetic profile. The second subject of the slow movement is deft, the Rondo finale confidently relaxed and with the courage, like Brahms, to end quietly. The Third of 1901 shows ever more personalised touches – deft harmonies, an unusual 6/4, sedate but controlled and with a sure touch when recapitulating its attractive material and above all a sense of rhapsody, of imperceptible movement. Interplay between the instruments sounds faultless. The second movement embodies a series of variations – grave as well as yearningly affectionate, though perhaps rather over stretched for the material and a touch faceless. The finale is in his accustomed style; bright, straight forward, solidly Austro-German.

The Sixth has competition in the shape of the Arnold and Victor Steinhardt recording on Biddulph – coupled, as that one is, with Fuchs’ Fantasy pieces Opp. 74 and 117. It’s a more concise work than the Third and is strong on meditative song – mixing rhapsody and terse declamation to advantage, the late Brahms inheritance still powerfully alive. There’s excellent counterpoint along the way and more of Fuchs’ trademark lyricism. Berg and Triendl don’t aspire to the complex vibrato and tonal depth of the brothers Steinhardt but they do show a real instinct for the rhapsodic ebb and flow of Fuchs’ melody line and the interplay of voices that give such life and lift throughout. A small demerit is the slightly too clangorous acoustic but the accent is on "small" and won’t affect the musical pleasure afforded by these three sizeable works; they take time to work on you, but work on you they assuredly will.

Jonathan Woolf

Robert FUCHS (1847-1927) Complete Violin Sonatas Vol. 1 Violin Sonata No. 1 in F sharp minor Op. 20 (1877) [26.38] Violin Sonata No. 4 in E major Op. 77 (1905) [19.59] Violin Sonata No. 5 in A major Op. 95 (1912) [24.26] Ursula Maria Berg (violin) Oliver Treindl (piano) rec NDR Landesfunkhaus Hannover, Kleiner Sendesaal, 27-28 July, 7-8 Oct 2002. DDD THOROFON CTH2511 [71.11] [RB]

Brahmsian lyricism ... see Full Review


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