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Volkmar ANDREAE (1879-1962)
Piano Trio Op. 1 (1901) [27:41]
Piano Trio Op. 14 (1914) [37:18]
Locrian Ensemble: Rita Manning (violin); Justin Pearson (cello); Kathy Rockhill (piano)
rec. Potton Hall, Suffolk, 22-23 February 2006. DDD
GUILD GMCD7307 [73:49]



Volkmar Andreae was born in Bern on 5 July 1879. During his studies he excelled both as composer and conductor, and published his first mature composition, the Piano Trio in F minor Opus 1, in 1901 when he was 22. Like others who might be discovering his music for the first time, the question immediately arises, ‘why haven’t we heard more?’ The booklet notes by Robert Matthew-Walker point out that, as a conductor, his mixed career might have militated against his acceptance as a composer as has happened with many other composer-conductors. His catalogue is certainly not huge, with a brace of symphonies and operas, plus a mixed bag of other vocal and chamber music to his name. All of this may have contributed to his neglect, but it would also appear to be the case that his musical style made him something of a dinosaur, or at the very least one of those unfortunate enough to fall in between easily definable periods in music. His is an idiom which sits within the post-Romantic German tradition and the late language of Brahms: whose music – while hardly high-Romantic in the mould of Liszt or Reger, is certainly not that of an animal of the 20th century.
 
The Piano Trio Op.1 appeared when Andreae was repetiteur at the Munich Royal Opera. As a conductor he later promoted the music of Bruckner, Mahler, Richard Strauss and Debussy, and his recordings of several symphonies of Bruckner were pioneering discs in their day. The attraction to Bruckner appears in some of the technical fingerprints which analyses reveal, but the overriding influence is that of Brahms. Play the opening of the third movement Allegro ma non troppo and you will have even knowledgeable friends scratching their heads trying to work out who it is if not Brahms. The music has a round, sonorous quality, and a lyrical charm and power which stands on its own two feet throughout. The string writing is well executed and thankfully lacking in scrubbing and repetitiousness, and with a virtuoso piano part this work deserves a place in the standard repertoire.
 
The second Piano Trio Op.14 appeared thirteen years after the first, and is in four movements rather than the First’s three. There is an immediate feeling of greater individuality about the music in this piece. Andreae’s language adopts a mixture - something approaching French Impressionism yet all the while holding on to a basis of Germanic seriousness. The gestures are nothing if not striking however, and after an almost Schubert-like opening theme the symphonic twelve minutes of the first Allegro moderato movement are filled with drama and expressiveness.
 
The second movement, Molto Adagio, has a chorale-like opening which promises something searching and emotive. Indeed a fascinating succession of variations on themes, which grow out of the piano’s harmonic basis, ensue. The inescapable feel is late-Romanticism, with an extended crescendo towards a central climax. In the second part of the movement the music gently returns to a calm version of that with which it began. 
 
The third movement, Presto, has a remarkable structure, beginning quietly and very fast, before a much slower passage begins an entirely different sonic world. A standard tripartite form would lead expectations to a return to the Presto, but the composer surprises with an even slower section which modern ears might expect to lead attacca to a rousing finale. The Presto eventually returns however, transformed into an even lighter filigree. The final Allegro con brio assai vivace, opens with a jaunty ‘hunting’ theme whose calls, if slowed, could easily be taken for Bruckner. The movement proceeds with numerous twists and variations on the way: moods; light to elegiac to forcefully dramatic, all on the turn of a Swiss franc.
 
So, what is to be made of Volkmar Andreae on this showing? Bearing in mind that the weather map of cultural trends and influences moved with variable speed over the massive net cast by Austro-Germanic musical tradition, it is hardly surprising that such music was being created by young composers even up to the point at which World War I shattered the lives of so many. Andreae’s music is honest and executed with refinement and a genuinely inventive spirit.
 
The playing of the Locrian Ensemble is sensitive to the composer’s idiom, and champions his cause in a way which, one would hope, should increase his standing on the international concert stage. The recording is nicely balanced and warmly colourful, fairly close to the instruments, but without that glaring sharpness in the strings which can sometimes be tiring on the ears. If you like your chamber music with a Brahmsian feel, not too heavily romantic and wallowing but with plenty of expressive lyrical line and musical ‘oomph’, then this release deserves your attention.
 
Dominy Clements      
 



 


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