Felix DRAESEKE (1835-1913)
Quintet in B flat major for horn, string trio and piano,Op.48 (1888) [37.17]
Romance in F major for horn and piano, Op.32 (1885) [04.06]
Adagio in A minor for horn and piano,Op.31 (1885) [07.20]
Sonata in B flat major for clarinet and piano, Op.38 (1887) [24.41]
Pascal Moraguès (clarinet), Hervé Joulain (horn), Lisa Schatzman (violin), Marie Chilemme (viola), David Pia (cello), Oliver Triendl (piano)
rec. June 2015, Dreifaltigkeitsbergkirche, Regensburg, Germany
TYXART TXA16077 [73.36]

Felix Draeseke’s compositional oeuvre is wide-ranging, and includes symphonies, concertos, operas, chamber and piano music. He was born in Coburg, Germany in 1835. Flying in the face of his parents’ wish for him to train for the clergy, his sights were set on music. He went to study at the Leipzig Conservatory. Early contact with Wagner’s music drew him towards the New German School and Franz Liszt. An early piano sonata in C sharp minor (1862-1867) greatly impressed Liszt who considered it to rank as one of the most important works in this genre since the sonatas of Beethoven. I can’t comment. He spent twelve fruitful years in French-speaking Switzerland, where he honed his compositional skills and produced his first two symphonies. In 1876 he relocated to Dresden. A hearing defect prevented him working as an active musician. He died in the city in 1913.

His music was highly regarded in his day, and was championed by such stellar figures as Arthur Nikisch, Hans von Bülow and later by Fritz Reiner and Karl Böhm. Gradually, however, it began to fade into obscurity. It’s encouraging to see a resurgence of interest of late, with new recordings being issued.

The main work on this disc is the Quintet in B flat major for horn, string trio and piano, Op.48 from 1888. I see that it’s already had a couple of outings on CD, but this is my first encounter with it. The Mendelssohn-infused opening movement, the finest of the four in my view, is lushly romantic. I was quite surprised that the horn’s role is fairly reserved throughout. Draeseke could certainly pen a good tune, and the movement’s radiant lyricism is intensely appealing. The slow movement is rather unusual. It begins dark and sombre, but as it progresses, it explores many contrasting moods. A playful and spry Presto follows. The finale begins with a quote from the opening bars of the first movement. It opens out into an animated discussion, in which each of the instruments is given its moment in the sun.

The Clarinet Sonata has enjoyed a certain amount of popularity amongst clarinet players, and it’s not difficult to see why. It brims over with copious memorable melodies. The opening movement is a delight, with Mendelssohn and Schumann being obvious influences. The Adagio is a reverential dialogue between the two instruments, and both players contour the lyrical lines with warmth and intimacy. A sprightly Scherzo offers some contrast with its charm and good-humour, and it certainly raises a smile. The Rondo finale is quite technically challenging, and the players carry it off with joie-de-vivre and stunning virtuosity.

The two short pieces for horn and piano were written in 1885. The Romance is the more attractive. The Adagio I found rather meandering and, longer than its partner, slightly overstays its welcome. It begins in serious vein, with the second theme more cheerful in character. At the end, the melancholy returns. This is the only work on the disc I found disappointing.

All concerned give committed accounts of these attractive scores. The performances benefit from Tyxart’s superbly recorded sound. This delightful release will appeal to chamber music lovers who want to explore new byways.

Stephen Greenbank

Previous review: Jim Westhead

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