Thursday, May 05, 2016

Robert Fuchs Chamber Music Rates a Listen

The perception of classical music is that its immutable -- the great composers have always been considered great, and the works we revere have always been so. Of course, the reality is quite different. Take Robert Fuchs, for example.

At the turn of the 20th Century, he was considered one of the greatest living composers. Brahms admired him, and he was much sought-after as a teacher. His list of pupils includes Erich Korngold, Gustav Mahler, Franz Schmidt, Hugo Wolf, Alexander von Zemlinsky and George Enescu.

Fuchs did little to promote his own music, often letting opportunities pass by. Nevertheless, his serenades and his chamber music were staples of the repertoire. And, as this release demonstrates, with good reason.

The Piano Trio of 1921 is a great example of Fuchs' mature style. His shimmering post-romantic harmonies were emulated by Zemlinsky and Schmidt. Fuchs uses a viola rather than a cello in this trio, and it gives the ensemble a lighter texture, making the harmonies even more ethereal.

Fuchs' 1915 Violin Sonata seems to be more concerned about delivering well-crafted melodies than showcasing technical challenges. Violinist Giulio Platino's expressive playing makes the most of those gorgeous melodies, without being overly dramatic (or even melodramatic).

The 6 Fantaiest├╝cke for viola date from 1927, the year of Fuchs' death. These pieces are warmly lyrical, and perhaps a little nostaligic. One can hear what appealed to Brahms in this work, I think.

This recording helped me understand why Fuchs enjoyed such high regard. I'm puzzled why he still doesn't today.

Robert Fuchs: Piano Trio in f-sharp minor, Op. 115; Violin Sonata in G minor, Op. 103; 6 Fantaiest├╝cke Op. 117 for viola
Giulio Platino, violin; Claudio Cavalletti, viola; Enrico Maria Polimanti, piano
Brilliant 95028

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