Fuchs Piano Sonatas, Vol.1

Author: 
Bryce Morrison

Fuchs Piano Sonatas, Vol.1

  • Sonata for Piano No. 1
  • Sonata for Piano No. 2

Robert Fuchs (1847-1927), whose pupils included Wolf, Mahler and Sibelius, remains a shadowy yet potent figure in the musical history of late nineteenth-century Vienna. A superficial hearing of his determinedly large-scale First and Second Piano Sonatas can suggest ill-digested influences, notably those of Brahms and Schubert, but closer scrutiny brings its rewards. In both sonatas an outwardly safe teutonic surface discloses much modulatory adventure and many surprising twists and turns in the musical argument. Listen to the First Sonata's Allegro and you will hear how Fuchs's transforming imagination turns a Schubertian bias (more specifically the ghostly presence of the third movement trio from the Op. 42 Sonata in A minor) to such haunting advantage. Once heard this is not easily forgotten. Admittedly not everything operates at this level of felicity or inspiration. The finale's quasi-presto coda is more exciting in theory than practice and elsewhere, in the relatively more advanced language of the Second Sonata, there is considerable difficulty in getting so many unwieldy and rhetorical arguments air-born. But, again, the Andante's coda has something of the richness and quality of, say, Brahms's Variations on an Original Theme, and the clear outline of the Allegro risoluto is doubly welcome after so much cloudy declamation elsewhere.
The recordings are more bold and upfront than subtle but Daniel Blumenthal, a true champion of unduly neglected repertoire, is an assured and full-toned advocate. Like Brahms (who thought that the trio of the First Sonata's Scherzo was like ''the appearance of a young swallow'') he pleads his case with unrestrained eloquence. The sleeve mistakenly assumes that the Third Sonata is also included (a summer release, I gather) but in the meantime I do urge all readers with a taste for the genuine and unusual to give this disc a try.'

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