Guild has now released three discs devoted to the chamber music
of the Swiss composer and conductor Volkmar Andreae. This one
has solo piano music, a violin sonata, a fine string trio, and
an early string quartet.
The 1898 quartet owes a lingering debt to late Schubert and
also to Dvorák, and is very fluently crafted. There’s plenty
of incident in the opening Allegro, the longest of the four
movements, and a delightful kick to the rhythms in the ensuing
scherzo. Andreae withdrew the work, and it’s a pity that people
therefore never got to hear the rather lovely slow movement,
or the exciting and vibrant finale with, admittedly, that dread
cliché, the inevitable fugal passage. If this youthful work
is only fitfully impressive, the string trio of 1917 operates
at a higher and more consistent level of inspiration. It’s not
especially contrapuntal, and shows no overt signs of being influenced
by, say, Reger. Instead there are again hints of Dvorák in the
central Allegretto, in which the lighter and darker elements
of the music are well distributed. Indeed his assured handling
of the tricky string trio medium is never in doubt, nor too
the increase in tension in the finale, where there is some intense,
even anguished writing, before some sprightlier dance patterns
lead us on to a resolving conclusion.
The violin sonata was written around the turn of the century.
There are hints of Andreae’s early flirtation with impressionism,
also perhaps Brahms. As is usual with this composer, his melodic
gift finds a proper medium in the slow movement, themes from
which reappear in the finale, optimistically restated, even
though the actual writing here is less distinctive. The Six
Piano Pieces (1911) bear Schumannesque titles and are nicely
and concisely characterised; a march, a light-fingered dance
(quite quirky actually), a strummed lament of rich warmth, a
delightful Catalonian Serenade, and a touch of Liszt and Chopin
for the finale.
The performances are very well scaled, unflamboyant and intelligent,
and the recording is attractive too. There’s no denying an inherent
unevenness in some of this music but at its best it’s engaging,
warm-hearted and resourceful.