Volkmar ANDREAE (1879-1962)
String Quartet in E flat major (1898) [22:55]
Six Piano Pieces for two hands Op.20 (1911) [14:34]
String Trio in D minor Op.29 (1917) [15:18]
Violin Sonata in D major Op.4 (c. 1901) [26:36] ą
The Locrian Ensemble of London (Rita Manningą and Warren Zielinski (violins); Philip Dukes (viola); Justin Pearson (cello)); Fali Pavri (piano)
rec. April 2010, Champs Hill, West Sussex
GUILD GMCD 7355 [79:42]

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.

Jonathan Woolf

Unflamboyant and intelligent, and at its best engaging, warm-hearted and resourceful.