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Kurt Moses
American Record Guide, September 2012

These works are pleasant music and easy listening…The Cologne Chamber Orchestra produces a rich, romantic sound that’s quite attractive and expressive… © 2012 American Record Guide Read complete review on American Record Guide online

Jerry Dubins
Fanfare, September 2012

There is some incredibly beautiful music for strings here—the Fourth Serenade adds two horns to the ensemble—generously melodic and richly textured. One would be hard-pressed to come up with examples of pieces as immediately ear-pleasing…

Still, at his best, Fuchs could be and often was a tunesmith extraordinaire, and evidence of that shines through these lovely serenades like the sun peeking through the clouds.

Yet there is much to enjoy here in these untroubled, easygoing works. Advocating on their behalf are a conductor, an orchestra, and a record label that strongly believe in them, and on two budget-priced CDs you can now have excellent modern recordings of all five of Fuchs’s endearing serenades. © 2012 Fanfare Read complete review

Barry Brenesal
Fanfare, September 2012

The Third Serenade was first published in Leipzig, in 1873. A nostalgic Romanze gives way to a gentle Minuet that recalls Brahms. The Allegretto grazioso that follows is a lightly treading march, while the finale Alla zingarese is very much gypsy-for-the-one-day-tourists, but energetic and skillfully done.

A surprising 17 years would elapse before the Fourth Serenade appeared. It is more ambitious in structure and tone, successfully so on both counts, with a pronounced breadth to the themes. There is a major-minor ambivalence from moment to moment flowing through it…A warm Andante sostenuto leads to a teasing Minuet…The Adagio is distilled lyrical song…

The Fifth Serenade…puts the slow movement first, giving an impression of expansiveness and melancholy. The Allegro grazioso in second place banishes the clouds for a sunny 6/8 dance that considers becoming a waltz. This leads to an Allegretto amabile with excellent wind writing; it could pass for a serious rustic procession.

The Cologne Chamber Orchestra has a nice blend to its ensemble, with an especially effective wind section. Christian Ludwig brings out the color in these three works to strong advantage, and avoids the potential for drowning in sentiment in movements such as the one that leads off the Fifth Serenade…The sound couldn’t be bettered, and given that no other version of all five serenades exists, the pair of recordings is really self-recommending. If you enjoy the Brahms serenades, chances are you’ll find much that will appeal here, as well. © 2012 Fanfare Read complete review

Chris Morgan
Scene Magazine, June 2012

…there is exquisite drama to the heaviness and lightness expressed in the Menuetto of Serenade No. 3 and the intoxicating richness of the fourth serenade’s string arrangement. What fame Fuchs enjoyed—in life and after—has rested on five serenades, three of which appear on this recording. Performed by conductor Christian Ludwig and the instrumentalists of the Cologne Chamber Orchestra, these definitive renditions should be required listening for any student or collector of European classical music. © 2012 Scene Magazine Read complete review

Jerome Crossley
WCLV, May 2012

Fuchs’ Serenades Nos. 3, 4, and 5, featured on this new disc from Naxos. Everything here is, at the very least, adroitly crafted and enjoyable. And some of it is much more: the poignant opening Romanze of the third Serenade, for example, and No. 4’s central Menuett, with its delicately balanced blend of serenity and anxiety. © 2012 WCLV

Cinemusical, April 2012

The Cologne Chamber Orchestra perfectly captures this great music in fabulous performances that are well-recorded. The interesting shifts of harmony and melodic content make the works here all integral discoveries to a deeper appreciation of Austrian symphonic music. Closer familiarity will certainly deepen the awareness of the music by Fuchs’ more famous pupils, some of who would change our perceptions of melody, enrich our harmony, and even live to influence popular music well into our own century.

Highly recommended! © 2012 Cinemusical

Bob McQuiston
Classical Lost and Found, April 2012

A year ago we told you about an exceptional Naxos release (8.572222) featuring the first two of five serenades by Robert Fuchs…who’s best remembered as one of Austria’s greatest music teachers. And now they give us a companion disc with the other three. The third like the first two is just for strings, whereas the fourth includes horns, and the fifth is scored for a classical-sized orchestra.

Completed in 1878, the third is in four movements. There’s a Nordic coolness about the rueful opening romanze anticipating Sibelius…who incidentally was a student of Fuchs. But the mood lightens in the entreating menuetto, fickle allegretto and busy Magyar-influenced finale, which brings to mind Brahms’ (1833–1897) Hungarian Dances.

A couple of horns join the fourth serenade of 1892. Coming fourteen years later and set in five movements, the structure, scoring, and harmonic scheme are more sophisticated than its predecessor. The initial andante is memorable for its captivating melancholy, while an infectious impishness dominates the next allegretto. A sense of loss pervades the following menuetto with its sobbing string phrases and wailing horn calls.

As the album notes point out, the adagio is the emotional heart of this serenade with a chromaticism auguring the music of another Fuchs’ student, Franz Schmidt (1874–1939), whose four symphonies…come to mind. One of Fuchs’ loveliest movements, it’s followed by a vivacious finale having a couple of comely dance tunes. These are accented with decorative horn calls, and bring this elegant work to a satisfying conclusion.

Some wind players join the horns and strings, lightening the tone of the fifth serenade (1894), which reverts back to four movements. Smacking of Robert’s friend and admirer Johannes Brahms, it’s a worthy successor to the latter’s two serenades (1857–59). The somber first adagio is quite beguiling, while the following two fast movements are respectively folkish and playful.

The finale may at first have you thinking the Naxos producers got their tapes mixed up as it starts with a theme from Johann Strauss II’s (1825–1899) Die Fledermaus (1874). But no, this is just the beginning of an intricate fantasy in which Robert takes the tune apart and reassembles it, concluding his last serenade with a bow to “The Waltz King.”

Following the success of their earlier Fuchs disc for Naxos, conductor Christian Ludwig and the Cologne Chamber Orchestra (CCO) give us superb renditions of all three works. As before their performances of these immaculately crafted scores are technically precise, but at the same time filled with enough emotion to prevent the music from ever sounding academic.

Like the previous release this CD was a coproduction with German Radio, and done in the same Cologne studio that proved to be such an ideal venue for the CCO before. Although these later serenades were recorded on separate occasions, the soundstages projected seem identically proportioned. There’s just the right amount of reverberation to ensure a pleasing instrumental timbre without any loss of clarity. Audiophiles will not be disappointed! © 2012 Classical Lost and Found

David Hurwitz, April 2012

This second disc concludes Naxos’ survey of Robert Fuchs’ complete serenades, and it’s just as delightful as the first. Serenade No. 3, for strings, features an irresistibly catchy third-movement march, and a fiery finale in the Hungarian style. The Fourth Serenade, in five movements…All of the works feature a movement described as “grazioso”, but the Allegretto grazioso of this piece particularly lives up to its title. The Fifth Serenade…has an unforgettably witty finale in which the players seem to want to play the waltz from Die Fledermaus, but can’t quite remember how it goes, so they dance on with their own slightly tipsy tune…

the performances are as perfect as we have any right to ask. Christian Ludwig paces each piece with an unerring feel for the music’s often balletic grace, while the slow movements never bog down in cloying sentiment. The Cologne Chamber Orchestra plays with clean rhythms, excellent intonation, and (in the latter works) notably transparent balances between strings and winds. This is music of very high quality. It bears repetition well, and will charm you and your musical friends for years to come. It deserves a place in every serious collection. © 2012 Read complete review

David Denton
David's Review Corner, April 2012

Had these Serenades carried the name of Grieg, or some equally popular composer, they would be part of our standard repertoire. Just turn to the Allegretto grazioso of the Third Serenade, and ask yourself when you last heard anything quite so instantly engaging. But, as I wrote when reviewing the first two Serenades last March, history has judged Fuchs as ‘still writing urbane, polite and comfortable scores when the musical world was being turned upside down by Schoenberg, Webern, and their many disciples’. Though he was to be the mentor of Mahler, Enescu, Korngold, Sibelius, Wolf and Zemlinsky, his music is today largely preserved by the recording industry. His style of composing changed little, as is evident by the similarity of mood in the Third and Fourth, though seventeen years elapsed between the two, the Fourth dating from 1895 when Fuchs was forty-eight. Though lightweight, in the true meaning of Serenade, they still need some considerable performing skill, as the vivacious finale of the Third puts to the test the very fine Cologne strings. The Fourth introduces sonorous solo horns to add moments of pungency to the string writing, the thematic material not quite so readily memorable. The Fifth introduces woodwind that adds weight to the outer movements, yet the scherzo is as light as thistledown. The performances are conducted by Christian Ludwig, who, at the time of recording, was the Cologne’s music director. Tempos have that feeling of a natural flow; the dynamic range never exaggerated, while the German Radio recording is nicely balanced and unassuming. Most strongly recommended. © David’s Review Corner

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