Notes and Editorial Reviews
Unflamboyant and intelligent, and at its best engaging, warm-hearted and resourceful.
String Quartet in E?. 6 Piano Pieces for 2 Hands. String Trio in d. Violin Sonata in D
GUILD GMCD 7355 (79:42)
This is now the third CD by the Locrian Ensemble devoted to the chamber music of the Swiss composer and conductor Volkmar Andreae (1879–1962), best known
today for his recordings of the Bruckner symphonies. While Bart Verhaeghe gave a mixed review in
31:4 to the first CD, containing the two piano trios, applauding the works but not the performances, Raymond Tuttle placed it on his 2007 Want List. I gave a positive review to the second CD in 34:4, finding the two string quartets and flute quartet reviewed there attractive if not highly original works.
I may be warming to the task, or the composer, or both, but I find this release even more enjoyable than its predecessor. The early string quartet in E? (without opus), a student work Andeae produced at age 19, is written in the vein of Mendelssohn and Schubert with a touch here and there of Dvo?ák and Grieg. It is sunny, tuneful, and engaging, an unabashed treat. By contrast, the op. 4 Violin Sonata from 1904, more intense and darker in mood, shows much more influence of the late Romantics. A thematic fragment in the opening virtually quotes the four-note first phrase of the first theme from the first movement of Dvo?ák’s Ninth Symphony, and the stylistic kinship to Korngold I noted in my previous review is quite apparent. More unexpectedly, I also find some surprising similarities in its mood and thematic material to the violin sonata of Bruno Walter. Well crafted and trenchant, the work holds my interest in every bar. The op. 20 piano pieces from 1911 also are very fine, with a strong resemblance to Grieg in their straightforward melodiousness and uncomplicated left-hand accompaniments. Finally, the op. 29 String Trio is again penned in a voice redolent of Mahler and Korngold, with somewhat off-kilter touches of folk melody; the finale has some stark dissonances that indicate an awareness (though not imitation) of the nascent Second Viennese School.
Once again the members of the Locrian Ensemble—violinists Rita Manning and Warren Zielinski, violist Philip Dukes, cellist Justin Pearson, and pianist Fali Pavri—prove themselves dedicated and persuasive advocates for this music. The only drawback is some occasional wiry sound and inexact intonation by first violinist Manning, especially during the sonata; a brief sampling of sound clips suggests that the rival performance of this work by Ilona Then-Bergh and Michael Schäfer on the Genuin label, positively reviewed by Jerry Dubins in 34:2, is superior. The program notes are a significant improvement on those in the previous album, though they still tend to run on and need a more objective editor. The recorded sound is up close and clear but not oppressive. Warmly recommended.
FANFARE: James A. Altena
Guild has now released three discs devoted to the chamber music of the Swiss composer and conductor Volkmar Andreae. This one has solo piano music, a violin sonata, a fine string trio, and an early string quartet.
The 1898 quartet owes a lingering debt to late Schubert and also to Dvorák, and is very fluently crafted. There’s plenty of incident in the opening Allegro, the longest of the four movements, and a delightful kick to the rhythms in the ensuing scherzo. Andreae withdrew the work, and it’s a pity that people therefore never got to hear the rather lovely slow movement, or the exciting and vibrant finale with, admittedly, that dread cliché, the inevitable fugal passage. If this youthful work is only fitfully impressive, the string trio of 1917 operates at a higher and more consistent level of inspiration. It’s not especially contrapuntal, and shows no overt signs of being influenced by, say, Reger. Instead there are again hints of Dvorák in the central Allegretto, in which the lighter and darker elements of the music are well distributed. Indeed his assured handling of the tricky string trio medium is never in doubt, nor too the increase in tension in the finale, where there is some intense, even anguished writing, before some sprightlier dance patterns lead us on to a resolving conclusion.
The violin sonata was written around the turn of the century. There are hints of Andreae’s early flirtation with impressionism, also perhaps Brahms. As is usual with this composer, his melodic gift finds a proper medium in the slow movement, themes from which reappear in the finale, optimistically restated, even though the actual writing here is less distinctive. The Six Piano Pieces (1911) bear Schumannesque titles and are nicely and concisely characterised; a march, a light-fingered dance (quite quirky actually), a strummed lament of rich warmth, a delightful Catalonian Serenade, and a touch of Liszt and Chopin for the finale.
The performances are very well scaled, unflamboyant and intelligent, and the recording is attractive too. There’s no denying an inherent unevenness in some of this music but at its best it’s engaging, warm-hearted and resourceful.
-- Jonathan Woolf, MusicWeb International
Works on This Recording
Klavierstücke (6), Op. 20 by Volkmar Andreae
Fali Pavri (Piano)
Period: 20th Century
Written: by 1911; Switzerland
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