Fuchs Works for Violin and Piano
I write this review on a particularly beautiful autumn afternoon and couldn't imagine a more appropriate subject: the music, deeply Brahmsian though occasionally lightened with Dvorakian sunbeams; the playing, cordial, unforced and with an intimate, sighing tone that particularly suits Robert Fuchs's reflective muse. In fact, my first encounter with the Ten Fantasy Pieces had me wondering whether Biddulph had wrongly identified Arnold Steinhardt's instrument as a violin. The tone itself is mellow and a little husky, far more viola-like than any other violin I've heard. And so, when Biddulph's Eric Wen informed me that Steinhardt's violin is actually a re-worked viola (a Lorenzo Storioni instrument with its F-Holes carved very close to the edge of the body), I wasn't in the least surprised. Comparison between the sonata and the Op. 74 Fantasy Pieces and the Op. 117 set on the second, bonus CD do, however restore a semblance of perspective: the later works yield a relatively dark-hued tonal profile, albeit one that is equally appealing.
The two collections of short pieces have a ruminative, rhapsodizing quality that recalls Brahms's sonatas and middle-period piano works. The Sixth Violin Sonata is a relatively late composition, it was written in 1915, published four years later and dedicated to one of Fuchs's most enthusiastic fans, the young Adolf Busch. It's a strong, beautifully built sonata, with significant developmental incident and plenty of telling counterpoint. The slow movement in particular recalls the later Brahms although Fuchs's own, somewhat more classical voice emerges as quietly distinctive. One should perhaps remember that Brahms himself had described him as ''a young skylark'', praising the ''intensity and meaning'' of his music and that Fuchs's own pupils included Hugo Wolf, Mahler, Sibelius, Franz Schmidt, Schreker and Zemlinsky. He was, in a limited sense, a sort of missing link, a thoughtful conservative whose very personal sensibilities helped clear a traceable path between the generations.
Fuchs's chamber works are rich in allusions and will not be hurried: they demand patient handling, subtle understatement and an acute sense of musical colour. A little like Faure's chamber music perhaps—repertory that might provide a further rewarding challenge for the brothers Arnold and Victor Steinhardt. Da-Hong Seetoo's recording is exemplary and Robert Pascall's notes, a model of informed exegesis. A quiet revelation.'