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8.223423 - FUCHS: Sonatas for Cello and Piano
Robert Fuchs (1847-1927)
Cello Sonata No. 1 in D Minor, Op. 29
Phantasiestücke, Op. 78
Cello Sonata No. 2 in E Flat Minor, Op. 83
The distinction of Robert Fuchs may seem at first to lie chiefly in his work as a teacher. His elder brother, Johann Nepomuk Fuchs, his senior by five years, was a pupil of Simon Sechter, from whom Schubert had planned to take lessons, served as Kapellmeister of the Bratislava Opera, conducted in a number of major opera houses, including the Vienna Court Opera, and taught composition at the Vienna Conservatory, of which he became director in 1893. Robert Fuchs was on the staff of the Conservatory from 1875 until 1911, and served as organist at the Vienna Hofkapelle from 1894 until 1905. He was a friend of Brahms, who gave him considerable encouragement as a composer and introduced him to the publisher Simrock, and counted among his pupils composers such as Gustav Mahler, Franz Schreker, Sibelius, Zemlinsky and a somewhat reluctant Franz Schmidt.
Robert Fuchs was born at Frauenthal in the Austrian province of Styria in 1847 and as a child learned the flute, violin, piano and organ with his brother-in-law, undertaking teacher-training, as Schubert once had, at Graz. In 1865 he moved to Vienna, where he earned a living by teaching, as a répétiteur and as an organist, while studying composition under Dessoff at the Conservatory. He won his first significant success as a composer in 1874 with the first of his five Serenades. The following year, in addition to his appointment as professor of harmony at the Conservatory, he became conductor of the orchestra of the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde. In 1886 he was awarded the Beethoven Prize by the jury of the Vienna Musikfreunde for his Symphony in C major, a work thereafter adopted by conductors such as Nikisch, Schalk, Richter and Weingartner. Less successful was the opera Die Königsbraut, staged at the Court Opera in 1889 and castigated by Hanslick.
The five Serenades gave him his Viennese nickname Serenaden-Fuchs, while his chamber music and piano music continued the classical traditions of Vienna with remarkable effectiveness. Fuchs was strongly influenced by the music of Schubert, a composer in the editing of whose work his elder brother played a considerable part. He coupled a lyrical gift with a sound grasp of harmonic and contrapuntal technique and in every way continued a tradition that in other hands was to undergo various distortions in the early twentieth century. Comparison with Brahms is inevitable, since Fuchs speaks with the same musical accent.
Something of the quality of the music of Fuchs is apparent in the first of his two cello sonatas, Opus 29 in D minor, published in 1881, a work that won the immediate approval of Brahms, generally a stern critic of his contemporaries. The affinity with Brahms is evident in the dramatic first movement of the sonata. The same spirit appears in the delicately capricious Scherzo and its contrasting Trio. The deeply felt slow movement is followed by a final Allegro brimming over with the happiness of the Styrian countryside and initially very much in the spirit of Schubert.
The second of the three works that Fuchs wrote for cello and piano is a set of seven Phantasiestücke, Opus 78, a counterpart of later compositions of the same title for violin and piano and finally, in 1927, for viola and piano, in addition to a number of Fantasy Pieces written at various times for solo piano. The first of the cello pieces, gently humourous and whimsical, leads to a more tender and nostalgically lyrical second piece. The piano introduces the lively third piece, in the manner of a quick country dance, transformed by Vienna, from which there is a brief respite in a contrasting central section. The fourth piece breathes the air of the Lied and is followed by a Minuet in a form more familiar from late Romantic duo sonatas. The sixth piece must bring to mind again the last pieces of Schumann, or the autumnal shades of late Brahms. The last piece of the set does much to dispel the melancholy that has diffused much of the whole work.
The second of the two cello sonatas, the Sonata in E flat minor, Op. 83, was published in 1908 but remains perceptibly in the same world as the sonata written a quarter of a century before. This is still the Vienna of Brahms, with no sign of the musical revolutions that were already occurring elsewhere. The first movement is again one of lyrical intensity, with piano textures and rhythms suggesting Brahms and with a fine balance of musical interest between the two instruments. The slow movement has again an air of autumnal lyricism and is followed by a final movement that has its clear moments of Brahmsian virtuosity, particularly in the texture and occasional bravura of the piano part, which serves as a foil to the cello.
Mark Drobinsky was born in Baku in the then Soviet Union and was trained at the Moscow Conservatory, where he had lessons from Rostropovich. A winner of the first prize in the Munich International Chamber Music Competition, he later settled in Paris, his base for an international career as soloist, recitalist and chamber musician. His engagements have included appearances at a number of major festivals, including the Festival de Paris, the Bordeaux Mai Musical, the Besançon Festival, the Bonn Beethoven Festival, the festivals of Wallonia and of Flanders, the Venice Biennale, the Israel Festival and many others. In addition to appearances on television and radio broadcasts, Mark Drobinsky has recorded music by Bach, Beethoven and Brahms.
From prize-winning performances at the Queen Elizabeth of the Belgians Competition, the Geneva International Competition, the Busoni International Competition and the competitions in Leeds and in Sydney, the American pianist Daniel Blumenthal has continued with a career that has taken him to four continents as a soloist and recitalist, in the former capacity with major orchestras in Europe and America. His extensive recordings include both solo performances and chamber music.
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