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Günter RAPHAEL (1903-60)
Solo Sonata for Viola in C minor, Op.7 (1924) [26:20]
Concertino in D for Viola and small orchestra without opus (1941) [12:04]
Trio for Flute, Violin and Viola in B flat major, Op.48 (1940) [20:56]
Concertino for Flute and small orchestra, Op.82 (1956) [19:32]
Rainer Moog (viola)
Erwin Milzkott (flute: concertino)
Willy Schwegler (flute:trio)
Günter Gugel (violin)
Kammerorchester der Christine Raphael Stiftung/Fuad Ibrahimov (viola concertino)
Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra/Karel Ančerl (flute concertino)
rec. December 1957, Berlin Funkaus Nalepastr.Saal1 (Concertino for Flute): January 1967, WDR Saal2, West German Radio (Trio); March 2011, Evang. Church in Honrath (Concertino for Flute): May 2011, Evang. Church in Honrath (Solo Viola Sonata)
QUERSTAND VKJK1234 [77:54]

Querstand is doing great things for Günter Raphael’s legacy. Each new release brings with it some quiet revelation or else some discographically unusual example of either work or performance. This one is no different. Nowhere on the front or the back of this disc does the label trumpet the fact that the Flute Concertino is heard in what I take to be the first broadcast performance of the work. The same performers also gave the premiere a few days later. The performers? Well, the conductor was none other than Karel Ančerl and the date was December 1957. Moving forward a bit the performance of the Trio for Flute, Violin and Viola dates from 1967 where Rainer Moog is the violist. He proves something of a constant companion in this disc, and clearly his commitment to Raphael’s music has been of long standing. It’s no small matter to have a viola player of Moog’s eminence promoting the music.
 
The disc begins appropriately with Moog, in 2011, playing Raphael’s early 1924 Solo Sonata. It was written when he was just twenty-one. It twists and turns quite demandingly, with Regerian shades close at hand. The play of legato and pizzicato in the third movement is deftly done, and the baroque procedural hints make their point well. There is an attractive Andante with variations and an assertive but pleasing Gigue to close. At 26 minutes this is quite a big work, and in truth just a little unfocused from time to time. But it’s full of technical accomplishment and attractive ideas and themes. Moog proves just a fraction less fluent here than at his earlier 1967 peak.
 
The Concertino for Viola is a chamber concerto written in 1941 but premiered in 1946. The solo viola opens, soon accompanied by the winds. Then heavy-booted brass make their presence felt - dark and austere. Raphael is good at setting high winds against the viola, drawing the ear to the inherent void between the two, which he cleverly fills with astute orchestration. The music seems finally to be moving toward a chorale-like tread. The 1940 Trio presents quite a shock after the Concertino. The opening is unusually jaunty and carefree, though the slow movement (‘Mit grosser Ruhe’) draws us into hymnal intensity, a ploy that seems both to undercut the opening and also powerfully to intensify - or even clarify - it by setting it into so immediate and stark a relief. It need not be necessary to recall the year, or the fact of Raphael’s ‘silence’ during the War, to construe a deeper purpose to this work. He continues with a fluid and fluent series of movements, with some intriguing intervals and harmonies. Nothing here, one feels, is quite at face value.
 
Finally, then, to the Flute Concertino. Ančerl must have been attracted to Raphael’s command of idioms, as the opening is nothing less than a 12-tone theme. The scherzo is taut but begun by the orchestra in a spirit of turbulence to which the flute responds by pirouetting and soliloquising. Yet despite the display the implacable orchestra has the final say. In the slow movement the flute’s lyricism is precise but spare, as is its melancholy. The notes characterise this movement as ‘peaceful’ but if that is so, the conductor finds something altogether more unsettled. The free-wheeling Rondo finale brings release and a droll sign-off. After this Concertino, Raphael had only four more years to live.
 
The performances, culled from various sources, are first class and the recordings are similarly fine for their time. These four works show Raphael grappling with the idea of the solo instrument, whether predominantly dark (viola) or more flighty (flute). Always the composer looks for the right accompanying colours, for the right space in which the viola, say, can sit most beneficially. It’s a fascinating business following him from the rather too garrulous Regerian exertions of the Solo Sonata - formidable in many ways though it is - to the period in which he seems finally to have found both a method and a means by which to convey the accompanied solo voice in all its complexity.
 
Jonathan Woolf
 
 

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