FUCHSThe Complete Works for Cello and Piano
It’s always nice to receive a new disc of music by Robert Fuchs, the Austrian symphonist who taught a regular who’s who of Viennese late Romantics. Mahler, Schreker, Wolf, Enescu, Korngold, even at one point Sibelius – they all passed through Fuchs’s class, with the result that, like Glazunov or Stanford, he’s become one of those hugely influential teachers whose own music, while not exactly neglected, is nonetheless sometimes treated as a bit of a footnote.
And my first reaction to this disc of his complete music for cello and piano was how much like Brahms it sounds (Fuchs even had the beard to match). But listen on, and something more distinctive emerges: a certain lightness and sparkle to the piano-writing and a harmonic vocabulary that’s ideally suited to taking a folk-like melody and throwing an ominous shadow behind it. Moments in the Fantasy Pieces evoke Mahler’s Wunderhorn settings, and the long melodies of the Op 29 D minor Cello Sonata’s first movement unfold in big, Brucknerian paragraphs.
Martin Ostertag and Oliver Triendl capture the symphonic potential of that movement nicely – its sunset coda as well as its craggy climaxes – and give an unforced lilt to the themes of the Op 83 E flat minor Sonata. Ostertag could perhaps have characterised his melodies with a little more flair, and his tone, while mellow in the lower register, can feel a little underpowered at the top. Overall, the pair are sympathetic and stylish champions of Fuchs’s music, and though Ivan Drobinsky on Marco Polo finds more drama, TYXart’s warm and realistic chamber acoustic may give this disc the edge for some. But if you’re new to Fuchs, either is worth hearing.