Robert FUCHS (1847-1927)
Cello Sonata No. 1 in d minor, op. 29 (1881) [24:30]
Phantasiestücke, op. 78 [27:52]
Cello Sonata No. 2 in E flat minor, op. 83 (1908) [19:40]
Mark Drobinsky (cello)
Daniel Blumenthal (piano)
rec. 1992, Clara-Wieck Auditorium, Heidelberg.
Reviewed as 320k mp3 download.
MARCO POLO 8.223423 [72:31]

I seem to be spending quite a bit of time recently writing reviews on old releases, but when the music is as good and as little-known as these works by the Austrian Robert Fuchs, I’m sure you will understand.

His name first came to my attention in reviews here of recordings on Naxos of his serenades (1 & 2 ~~ 3, 4 & 5). These were works that apparently made his reputation in Vienna, to the point where he gained the nickname of “Serenaden-Fuchs”. His far greater claim on posterity is as teacher at the Vienna Conservatory of Mahler, Sibelius and Zemlinsky.

The present three works are firmly in the Romantic mode of Brahms, a good friend of Fuchs. While they don’t have quite the level of inspiration of the two masterworks of the great man himself, I would stack them up against most other cello sonatas from the second half of the nineteenth century. Listen to the first minute of the first movement of Sonata No. 1 on one of the websites offering previews, and I think you will see what I mean. The seven movements of the Phantasiestücke showcase a delightful range of moods. The second sonata is much more reserved, and somewhat of an anachronism by 1908, but there are still autumnal pleasures to be had. How these works can be so ignored is beyond me; Brahms would have been proud of them – in fact, he was.

It is quite disappointing to see that this remains the only recording of the first sonata, the other two works having one other recording each. I haven’t sought these others out, because the performances here are excellent, and well recorded also. Both performers have significant discographies; Mark Drobinsky’s includes two appearances on the Argerich and Friends at Lugano series of releases. It is also disappointing to see that the only way that this can be purchased as a physical CD is through the Arkivmusic reissue programme; otherwise it will have to be a download.

I remarked in a previous visit to the back catalogue that I would resist giving a “Recording of the Month” award because it seemed an awkward fit for something released a decade or more earlier. The temptation here is even greater; indeed, I will have to think very carefully about whether it is appropriate to be a Recording of the Year, it is that impressive.

David Barker

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