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Volkmar Andreae, Vol. 2: Piano Concerto; Konzertstuck; Violin Concerto / Andreae, Bournemouth Symphony

Release Date: 07/09/2013 
Label:  Guild   Catalog #: 7394   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Volkmar Andreae
Performer:  Fali PavriChristian Altenburger
Conductor:  Marc Andreae
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

ANDREAE Piano Concerto in D 1. Konzertstück in b. 1 Violin Concerto. 2 Rhapsodie 2 Marc Andreae, cond; 1 Fali Pavri (pn); 2 Christian Altenburger (vn); Bournemouth SO GUILD 7394 Read more (75:10)

This is now the fourth Guild release of music by Volkmar Andreae (1879–1962) to come my way (see issues 34:4, 34:6, and 36:2 for my previous reviews), and the second one of orchestral music following two devoted to his chamber works. The four compositions featured here divide neatly into two contrasting groups according to both solo instrument (piano vs. violin) and place in Andreae’s compositional oeuvre (early vs. mature). While the later works are the more substantial and interesting ones, all four, like the ones previously featured, are well-crafted pieces of intrinsic merit that deserve places in the active concert repertoire.

The Piano Concerto (1898) and the Konzertstück (1900), neither bearing an opus number, both date from Andreae’s student years. The former was composed in Cologne during his studies with Fritz Wüllner, the latter immediately afterward in Vienna; the composer was the soloist for the world premiere performances. Lasting a bit over 25 minutes, the Concerto is cast in three movements (Allegro molto, Adagio-Andante, Presto) played continuously without pause. While the booklet notes suggest that the work is “Brahmsian, certainly, in language and general demeanor,” I find very little trace of Brahms in it. Instead, it is far closer in musical vocabulary and spirit to Liszt and the Russian and French romantics (e.g., Saint-Saëns and Grieg); the emphasis is upon flowing and rhapsodic melody, orchestral color, and virtuoso flair, though without any trace of shallowness or flashy vulgarity. If not profound, it is immediately ingratiating and bears up well to repeated listening.

The one-movement Konzertstück is a work of more serious mien; here the influence of Brahms is immediately to the fore, though that of Liszt is still very much present as well. Like the first movement of the Piano Concerto, it is dominated by a theme comprised of syncopated eighth notes. Also notable in both works is not only their thematic inventiveness and sure command of structural form, but also a mastery of orchestration far beyond the composer’s then tender years.

By contrast, the Violin Concerto (1935) and Rhapsodie (1919–1920) both date from considerably later in Andreae’s compositional career. As its title suggests, the Rhapsodie is a single-movement, free-form work. While it places folkloric elements, tunefulness, and showmanship to the fore, including colorful orchestral scoring with plenty of percussion, it is also musically substantial and again immediately engaging. Joseph Szigeti and Zino Francescatti are among eminent violinists who have included it in their repertoires.

The Violin Concerto was written for Andreae’s lifelong friend from his student years, the renowned violinist Adolf Busch, who premiered it in Zurich on January 27, 1936. Like the Symphony in C that I previously reviewed (and which Paul A. Snook placed on his 2012 Want List), it is a masterpiece of the first order that demands to be included in the standard repertoire. Whereas the other three works on this CD are all cast in a late 19th-century idiom (with the Rhapsodie being somewhat more forward-looking), this one stands firmly within the 20th century, while remaining resolutely tonal. The Largo-Allegro vivace first movement opens arrestingly with throbbing dissonant woodwind chords overlaid by a hauntingly distressed string theme before the violin enters. The first theme of the following main fast section carries the proceedings forward in a similar vein, before the oboe introduces a melodic second subject and the music assumes a somewhat brighter tone for the remainder of the movement. While the following Allegretto returns to the somber, downcast mood of the concerto’s opening, the closing Adagio-Allegro vivace rounds everything off with a briskly energetic, dancelike, upbeat conclusion, to which (as in the Rhapsodie ) a judicious use of percussion instruments adds vivacity and color.

All the pieces receive performances worthy of them. Pianist Fali Pavri, who plays the piano parts in the previous recordings of Andreae’s chamber works, here proves himself to be an excellent soloist in every way, both technically and interpretively; this is someone I’d gladly go to hear perform warhorses of the standard repertoire. I’m a bit less enthusiastic about violinist Christian Altenburger. Although he has an extremely impressive pedigree (student of Dorothy DeLay at Juilliard) and résumé (guest appearances with many of the world’s top-tier orchestras and most renowned conductors), he has occasional moments of raw or wiry tone and imperfect intonation that indicate why he is not a widely famed soloist. That said, there is no doubt of his interpretive grasp of and commitment to this score, and for the most part his playing provides great pleasure. As before, conductor Marc Andreae, the composer’s grandson, leads ideal performances, and the Bournemouth Symphony plays splendidly. The recorded sound is excellent; as with some of the previous releases in this series, the booklet notes unfortunately are less than one could rightly expect with respect to both content and prose style.

Had the Symphony on the previous disc been mated with the Violin Concerto on this one, that would have been a sure-fire Want List entry for me. As it is, while one must buy two CDs to obtain both masterpieces, the other works are also of sufficient quality to make the total investment more than worthwhile. The booklet notes indicate that another Symphony and Violin Concerto, both early student works, survive from Andreae’s pen. Given the quality of the two piano works presented here, I dearly hope that those will also see the light of day on compact disc. In any case, this release is enthusiastically recommended.

FANFARE: James A. Altena
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Works on This Recording

Concerto for Piano in D major by Volkmar Andreae
Performer:  Fali Pavri (Piano)
Conductor:  Marc Andreae
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1898; Switzerland  
Konzertstück in B minor for Piano and Orchestra by Volkmar Andreae
Performer:  Fali Pavri (Piano)
Conductor:  Marc Andreae
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1900; Switzerland  
Concerto for Violin in F minor, Op.40 by Volkmar Andreae
Performer:  Christian Altenburger (Violin)
Conductor:  Marc Andreae
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1935; Switzerland  
Rhapsodie for Violin and Orchestra, Op.32 by Volkmar Andreae
Performer:  Christian Altenburger (Violin)
Conductor:  Marc Andreae
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1919-20; Switzerland  

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