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Fuchs: Piano Trios / Gould Piano Trio

Fuchs / Gould / Neary / Frith
Release Date: 09/13/2011 
Label:  Quartz Records   Catalog #: 2028   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Robert Fuchs
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Gould Piano Trio
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 0 Hours 58 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

FUCHS Piano Trios: No. 1; No. 2 Gould Pn Trio QUARTZ 2028 (58:06)

So popular in his lifetime were his serenades that Robert Fuchs (1847–1927) was affectionately nicknamed “Serenaden-Fuchs” (Serenading Fox). Listening to these two piano trios, it’s easy to understand why. This is some of the prettiest music you will ever hear, and I don’t use the term pejoratively. When composers lined up to receive the gift of melody, Fuchs must have been very near the head of the queue, for his endowment was one of the Read more most generous to be bestowed.

Given his dates and cultural milieu—he was born in Austria and spent most of his life in Vienna, first as a student and then as a professor at the conservatory there teaching such future luminaries as Mahler, Zemlinsky, Sibelius, Enescu, and Korngold—one might reasonably expect Fuchs to have been one of the many composers who emulated Brahms. In fact, Brahms was one of Fuchs’s great admirers, writing, “Fuchs is a splendid musician; everything is so fine and so skillful, so charmingly invented, that one is always pleased.”

But Fuchs was not a Brahms imitator, and the elder composer’s praise of him may have come as much from relief that Fuchs was not another Herzogenberg as it did from genuine appreciation of his music. In truth, much of what Fuchs composed—and that includes, in addition to his popular serenades, three symphonies, a couple of operas, three masses, and a considerable volume of chamber works—might be described as a storybook that begins, “Once upon a time, before Brahms and before Schumann, there was Mendelssohn.”

But from there the tale takes a very strange turn, for in the Scherzo movement from the B?-Major Trio, for example, Fuchs introduces the former Mendelssohn to the future Leroy Anderson in a passage beginning at 2:38 that, I swear, could have been the model for the American composer’s The Typewriter . At every turn, there’s a breezy, easygoing, almost jazzy feeling to Fuchs’s music that seems to blend elements of the salon with elements of the dance hall. In this regard, Fuchs is probably more closely allied in style and intent with composers like Johann Strauss Jr. and Franz Lehár as opposed to the “deep and serious thinkers” among the Austro-German composers of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Fuchs’s influence on those deep and serious thinkers, however, is not to be dismissed, for some of those very salon and dance-hall elements, contorted and twisted, turn up in the music of Mahler, one critic of the time noting the “Fuchsisms” in Mahler’s Second Symphony.

The recording at hand is not new; in fact, a copy of it has been sitting on my shelf for a number of years. It was taped in 2004 (Trio No. 1) and 2005 (Trio No. 2) at Champs Hill in Sussex. I’m always a bit amused to see a CD advertised by ArkivMusic or some other mail-order website as an “advance order” with a future release date, when the disc actually appeared seven years ago and has been available, at least in England, since then. Perhaps it’s only now being distributed in the U.S. In any case, I find no other versions of Fuchs’s piano trios listed—he wrote three of them—though I can’t bring myself to believe that they’ve never been recorded before. It wouldn’t surprise me to learn that a Fanfare reader has them on LP.

These are enjoyable, engaging works that offer a counterweight to the heavier, meatier trios by Brahms and other composers active around the same time that Fuchs made his first two contributions to the medium (1878–1903); his last in the genre, the Piano Trio in F?-Minor, op. 115, didn’t come until 1925. For now, it seems that the Gould Piano Trio is your only choice for recorded performances of this repertoire. Happily, the choice is a good one and can be strongly recommended for solid ensemble playing that brings out the best qualities in Fuchs’s music.

FANFARE: Jerry Dubins
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Works on This Recording

Piano Trio No. 1 in C major, Op. 22 by Robert Fuchs
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Gould Piano Trio
Period: Romantic 
Date of Recording: 05/19/2004 
Venue:  Champs Hill, Sussex, England 
Length: 32 Minutes 27 Secs. 
Piano Trio No. 2 in B flat major, Op. 72 by Robert Fuchs
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Gould Piano Trio
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1903 
Date of Recording: 05/04/2005 
Venue:  Champs Hill, Sussex, England 
Length: 25 Minutes 33 Secs. 

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