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Fabian MÜLLER (b.1964)
String Quartet (2000)
String Trio (1996)
String Quintet Rhapsody (1990/2000)
Duo for violin and cello
Petersen Quartet
Tomasz Tomaszewski (violin)
Pi-Chin Chien (cello)
Andreas Wylezol (double bass)
Recorded at the Siemens Villa, Berlin, October and November 2003
CAPRICCIO 67 106 [55.34]

Fabian Müller is a forty-year-old Swiss composer who originally studied cello at the Zurich Conservatory. His first composition teacher was Josef Haselbach but Müller then spent a number of years in America where he pursued further studies with, amongst others, Jacob Druckman and Bernard Rands. He has composed widely and retains a strong and abiding interest in ethnology – and as this disc shows his studies into Swiss folk music have proved an important constituent of his compositional life.

Müller is what I’d call a fugitive lyricist. He’s excellent at abrupt shifts in mood and emotive states and the first piece here, the String Quartet written in 2000, shows how his developed melodies become sidetracked by brusque attacks. In a sense this is a Janáček inheritance, though Müller is less rhythmically craggy. Melancholy informs the slow movement and a rather impressionist Debussian inheritance haunts the Intermezzo whilst the finale is bristly, humorous, flighty with some jagged edges and even some hints of minimalism. Sounds too eclectic? Well, it works; Müller has absorbed what I take to be some important compositional voices and has utilised them profitably. The Trio is a slightly earlier work and embeds the sound of an alphorn into its language. It’s vocal and increasingly vital but the heart of the Trio lies in the Lento with moments of desolation and unison writing giving way to some meltingly lyrical moments, some reminiscent of Mahler. The Allegretto is a slithery piece of fun and the dance finale is exciting and human.

The String Quintet (Rhapsody) has plenty of off-beat accents and developing swing – there’s a fine sense of dialogue here, expertly crafted, and some lineage suggesting Müller knows his Berg. The Duo for Violin and Cello is the most recent work, written in 2001 and cast in five movements. It’s a worthy addition to the repertoire, opening tensely, then indulging Müller’s scudding, skittering writing. The geniality of the Bagatelle third movement doesn’t quite hide its cleverness and there are some finely worked out neo classical procedures in the Perpetuum mobile before a hymnal close – and sounding like a second cousin of Appalachian Spring.

This is my first meeting with Müller and I hope it won’t be my last – a composer who writes with freedom and imagination, who sticks to no doctrinaire guns, and whose chamber music is animated, warm and intriguing.

Jonathan Woolf

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