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Chamber Music: August 2008 Archives

Piano Quartets of Swiss Extraction

CPO 777278

Paul Juon

Piano Quartet, Op. 50
Piano Quartet "Rhapsodie", Op. 37

Oliver Triendl, piano
Daniel Gaede, violin
Hariolf Schlichtig, viola
Peter Bruns, violoncello
CPO 777278-2

Born in Moscow of Swiss descent, taught by Arensky and S. Taneyev, and called by an unknown critic "the missing link between Tchaikovsky and Stravinsky" (see the International Juon Society website), Paul Juon had a unique voice, a synthesis of many styles and national elements from Schumann to Sibelius. This is emotion-rich Romantic music but it is never saccharine. There is always an edge to even the most dramatic music, especially the most somber Adagio lamentoso of the Op. 50 Piano Quartet. The more popular (and more often recorded) Rhapsodie is lighter and more accessible, and both works are worth repeated hearings.

[ Available on CD: Amazon - UK - Germany - Canada - France - Japan - ArkivMusic - CD Universe ]

[ Parts for the Rhapsodie can be found at Edition Silvertrust ]

Quintets for Clarinet

Hyperion 55076

Andreas Jakob Romberg
Clarinet Quintet, Op. 57

Robert Fuchs
Clarinet Quintet in E Flat minor, Op 102

Charles Villiers Stanford
Fantasy for Clarinet & String Quartet #1 in G minor
Fantasy for Clarinet & String Quartet #2 in F Major

Thea King, clarinet
Britten String Quartet
Hyperion Helios CDH55076

For lovers of the magnificent Brahms Clarinet Quintet, this recording of the Fuchs Clarinet Quintet will be a special treat.

Robert Fuchs was known during his lifetime primarily as a teacher: some of his students were Mahler, Schreker, Sibelius, and Zemlinsky. He was also known for writing easily accessible and popular Serenades, and his nickname was "Serenading Fox", a pun on his name.

The Fuchs Clarinet Quintet has memorable melodies, wonderful string and clarinet writing, and it is a pleasure from beginning to end. Special mention must be made of the catchy and charming second movement scherzo.

Once you fall under the spell of Fuchs, you might want to seek out his other orchestral and chamber music. Thorofon has recorded much of his chamber music and two volumes of orchestral works and MD&G have also recorded String Quartets by Fuchs.

The other pieces on this Helios disc are also beautifully performed by King and the Britten Quartet (Peter Manning, violin; Keith Pascoe, violin/viola; Peter Lale, viola; Andrew Shulman, cello) and will provide hours of delight.

I am very grateful to the late Thea King (1925-2007) not only for her expressive musicianship and extensive contributions to the recorded clarinet literature, but also for her exploration of lesser-known composers of the 19th and 20th century and support via commissions for contemporary composers.

[ Available on CD: Amazon - UK - Germany - Canada - France - Japan - ArkivMusic - CD Universe ]

[ Sheet music by Fuchs: Sheet Music Plus -
  Sheet music by Romberg: Sheet Music Plus -
  Sheet music by Stanford: Sheet Music Plus - ]

Wolf's Quartet

Hänssler 93.024

Hugo Wolf

String Quartet in D minor
Italian Serenade

Fine arts Quartet
Hänssler Classic CD93.024

The String Quartet in D minor (1878-1884) is subtitled "Entbehren sollst du, sollst entbehren" – "Thou shalt forego, shalt do without," a quote from Goethe's Faust.

In spite of terrible emotional problems, Hugo Wolf managed to be a prolific and significant composer, best known for his many lieder, and his often-heard delightful Italian Serenade.

The far less popular String Quartet, however, is well-worth careful audition, especially if you are emotionally touched by the late Beethoven String Quartets. Wolf's strange rhythms and abrupt key-center shifts are more readily understood in the context of those Beethoven works.

The score I referred to while listening, from an out-of-print Dover Publications book (Seven String Quartets: 0-486-26891-8), gives the second and third movements in reverse order, but Wolf switched them later (and more appropriately). The Third Movement, Langsam, is the emotional center of this work, and can stand by itself as a passionate outpouring of deepest feelings.

[ Available on CD: Amazon - UK - Germany - Canada - France - Japan - CD Universe ]

[ Sheet music by this composer: Sheet Music Plus -

Parts available from Merton Music ]

Not The Planets

Chandos 9077

Gustav Holst
Quintet in A Minor for Piano & Winds, Op. 3
Wind Quintet in A Flat Major, Op. 14

Gordon Jacob
Sextet in B Flat Major for Piano & Winds, Op. 6

Anthony Goldstone, piano
Elysian Wind Quintet
Chandos CHAN9077 53:08

Holst wrote in a number of genres, but is too often regarded as a one-hit wonder because of the popularity of The Planets. The two works on this CD are early pieces in which he is still finding his way, but they are interesting in rounding out our perception of a composer better known for his orchestral writing; already there are folksong elements appearing.

Jacob is better known as an arranger of other people's music. This sextet, written many years after the Holst works, sounds a little like Hindemith and the piano writing very much like Prokofiev. A whole CD of Jacob's chamber music on Dutton Epoch CDLX7177 is well worth investigating.

[ Available on CD: Amazon - UK - Germany - Canada - France - Japan ]

[ Sheet music by Holst: Sheet Music Plus -
Sheet music by Jacob: Sheet Music Plus - ]

Forgotten Late German Romantic

AK Coberg 11

Felix Draeseke

Volume I
String Quartet #1 in C minor, Op. 27
String Quartet #2 in E minor, Op. 36

Volume II
String Quartet #3 in C Sharp minor
Suite in F Sharp minor for 2 Violins Op. 86

Hölderlin String Quartet
AK Coberg DR0011 & DR0012

The complete quartets of Felix Draeseke have just been released. These string quartets are richly scored, and are excellent examples of Late German Romantic chamber music, with beautiful flowing melodies, highly satisfying emotional content, and engaging part-writing. The second quartet will most likely become the most popular, although all three are very enthusiastically recommended!

AK Coberg 12

The Hölderlin String Quartet (Rebecca Martin, Christian Friedrich, violins; Andres Mehne, viola; Teemu Myöhänen, violoncello) was founded in 2005. They sound absolutely terrific, with a wide range of expression, vitality, and sensitive ensemble playing.

[ CDs may be purchased from the International Draeseke Society,
also a fine resource for more detailed information about Draeseke. ]

[ Sheet music by this composer: Sheet Music Plus - ]

[ Parts for the string quartets purchased from Merton Press ]

Romantic French Quartets

CPO 999060

Georges Onslow

String Quartet in G minor, Op. 9/1
String Quartet in F minor, Op. 9/3
String Quartet in C Major, Op. 47

Mandelring Quartet
CPO 999060-2 70:25

The French composer Onslow wrote 37 string quartets. This CD combines two of his youthful quartets with one from his maturity. Some of the themes recall Schubert, harmonically Schumann appears, but neither of these great composers overshadows the music. Three of the quartet's members are siblings and Onslow is one of their specialities: the first violinist in particular negotiates some tricky writing with great skill.

[ Available on CD: Amazon - UK - Germany - Canada - France - Japan - ArkivMusic - CD Universe ]

[ Sheet music by this composer: Sheet Music Plus - ]