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Robert FUCHS (1847-1927)
Serenade No. 1 in D major, Op. 9 (1874) [19:51]
Serenade No. 2 in C major, Op. 14 (1876) [16:08]
Andante grazioso and Capriccio, Op. 63 (1900) [17:37]
Andante grazioso [7:14]
Capriccio [10:20]
Cologne Chamber Orchestra/Christian Ludwig
rec. 11-15 November 2008, 6 March 2009, Deutschlandfunk, Sendesaal des Funkhauses, Cologne, Germany. DDD
NAXOS 8.572222 [53:23]

Experience Classicsonline

One might think that Naxos, who have a well-deserved reputation for rehabilitating forgotten composers, have all but exhausted that particular avenue. Not so, as their busy release schedule confirms; for instance, they almost single-handedly revived the fortunes of Alfredo Casella, whose symphonies and other orchestral works have been well reviewed on these pages. The Austro-Hungarian Robert Fuchs, a new addition to this growing list, was a composer and teacher whose pupils included Mahler, Sibelius, Wolf and Korngold. But what of his music?
In his liner-notes Anthony Short reports that Brahms, who wasn’t known for praising young composers, spoke in glowing terms of Fuchs. The reason for that isn’t hard to find, for the works recorded here inhabit much the same Classical-Romantic middle ground as Brahms. As string serenades go – one thinks of contemporary examples from Tchaikovsky and Dvorįk – the first has a freshness and bounce that’s most engaging. The opening Andante is especially mobile, the Cologne band playing with a judicious blend of passion and refinement. The recording is full and close, the upper strings fatigue-free, the bass a little stolid.
No matter, for this is delightful stuff. The Minuet is nicely sprung with the central Scherzo now grave now ardent. Conductor Christian Ludwig adopts sensible speeds that keep the music flowing very well; indeed, there are no longueurs to speak of, but then Fuchs isn’t tempted to overwork his material. It’s the rhythmic vitality of this music that makes the most impact. The is Adagio given a light, freewheeling character. Only in the darker textures of the Finale is there a hint of Romantic angst – not to mention a distinctly Mahlerian flavour to the harmonies. Still, this is essentially Classical in structure and feel, and none the worse for that.
The fact that Fuchs dedicated his second serenade to an Austro-Hungarian nobleman – shades of Papa Haydn – reinforces the sense that he belongs to an earlier, more traditional musical/social milieu. That said, this piece is blessed with the same virtues as its predecessor, from a nicely aerated Allegretto – the well-blended upper strings crisp yet lyrical – through to a gravely beautiful Larghetto, a brightly lit, ebullient Allegro and a somewhat Mendelssohnian Finale.
Not surprisingly, the fin-de-sičcle Andante grazioso and Capriccio is much more gnarly and inward. Gone is the carefree charm of the serenades, although there are sudden shafts of light in the Andante grazioso and moments of real animation in the Capriccio. This music sounds more chamber-like in its intensity and focus. The lower strings – somewhat blurred in the serenades – are now more trenchant. That’s especially true of the Capriccio, where they have splendid passion and bite.
A most enjoyable selection, winningly played and well worth exploring. Indeed, this has whetted my appetite for the other Fuchs recordings in the series; what better recommendation than that?
Dan Morgan












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