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Günter RAPHAEL (1903-1960)
Volume 3: Kammermusik nach 1946
Clarinet Sonatina, op.65 no.3 (1946/47) [11:44]
Sonatina for oboe and harp, op.65 no.2 (1948) [9:23]
Divertimento for alto saxophone and cello, op.74 (1952) [14:54]
Viola Sonata in D, op.80 (1954) [15:11]
Drei Stücke in C sharp, for cello and piano (1956) [7:04]
Sonata for solo bassoon, op.46 no.9 (1954) [8:24]
Berceuse, for bassoon and piano (1958) [4:15]
Récitatif, for alto saxophone and piano (1958) [4:11]
Alfred Sous (oboe), Charlotte Cassedanne (harp) (op.65/2)
Emil Manz (saxophone), Karl Heinz Mommer (cello) (op.74)
Georg Schmid (viola), Hans Altmann (piano) (op.80)
Thomas Blees (cello), Eckart Sellheim (piano) (Drei Stücke)
Emil Schamberger (bassoon) (op.46/9)
Werner Mauruschat (bassoon), Wilhelm Neuhaus (piano) (Berceuse)
Fred Thurmer (saxophone), Wilhelm Neuhaus (piano) (Récitatif)
rec. WDR Saal 2, 10 September 1963 (op.65/3), 29 June 1966 (Drei Stücke); 20 February 1964 (op.46/9), 12 May 1969 (Berceuse); 5 October 1976 (Récitatif). Sendesaal, Hessischer Rundfunk, 14 October 1976 (op.65/2). AEG-Haus, Munich, 30 May 1999 (op.80). Unknown venue, 1955 (op.74).
QUERSTAND VKJK 1220 [75:36]

German imprint Querstand's series devoted to the lamentably neglected German composer Günter Raphael continues apace with this, the third volume, quickly following on from the first and second (VKJK 1134, 1135). Moreover, two further discs have already been released (VKJK 1221, 1234). Until very recently, recordings of Raphael's highly engaging music were chiefly to be found scattered piecemeal across a range of labels. Now, however, Querstand's sudden substantial contribution to the discography adds to a triple-disc entry of orchestral works from CPO (777563-2) and Toccata Classics' presumably first volume of violin chamber music (TOCC 0122). All but one of the works on this latter can be found on another CPO release (777564-2) which, by the way, arguably trumps it twice over, featuring as it does Raphael's daughter Christine as its star-attraction soloist and a second CDful of music. An up-to-date discography can be found on the Christine Raphael Foundation website here.
It must be said that neither Querstand, CPO nor Toccata discs come especially cheap, and prospective buyers should be aware that the Querstand recordings are from the archives, some dating back to the early 1960s. On the other hand, sound quality, though understandably mixed, at least remains on the right side of acceptable, and in some cases can be qualified more warmly still. In certain earlier recordings there is obvious background hiss, and a mono quality (particularly in op.65/3) not indicated in the booklet but which barely qualifies as stereo. In the Berceuse the musicians sound as if they were at the other end of the room from the recording equipment. Even a track like the Viola Sonata op.80, recorded in 1999, has a narrow stereo beam, not to mention that same background hiss, albeit at less intrusive levels. On the other hand - as is often true- well re-mastered 1970s recordings give very commendable payback. The Récitatif in vol.3 is such a case, although it is marred by a rather obvious editing join towards the end; ditto the atmospheric Sonatina for oboe and harp, op.65 no.2, which suffers in its turn through oboist Alfred Sous's absurdly affected breathing.
Querstand's Volume 1 has similar shortcomings. Measured in purely audio quality terms, volume 2 - devoted entirely to Raphael's two sets of (45) Dialogues for two violins - is the only one of the first trio that is entirely recommendable. However, anyone who can see (hear) past the inconsistencies will be richly rewarded: Raphael's chamber music is concise, impassioned, virtuosic, varied and above all kind to audiences - making use of different styles, but nearly always based around an abundance of melody, rhythmic vitality and tried-and-tested harmonies. Even when he incorporates dodecaphonic elements, as in the Three Pieces in C sharp, the darkling results still contrive to sound orthodox in terms of tonality and being approachable.
There are in fact numerous miniature masterpieces to be found throughout these volumes. The present disc is especially well endowed, with barely a weak item - only the last two could be said to be inconsequential. The sultry, pulsating Divertimento for saxophone and cello, the driving, humorous Clarinet Sonatina, the harmonically-adventurous Viola Sonata op.80 - these and more are guaranteed audience-pleasers.
Across the five releases to date - there are surely more to come - there are many big names to be found in the lists of performers, which says much for Raphael's reputation among musicians. What a pity that he died before hearing his work played with such panache and commitment for these recordings. The anonymous German-English booklet notes offer neat, lucidly written, generally well translated information, with a good paragraph on each work following some general background on Raphael.
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