Reviews

GMCD 7307 – Piano Trios by Volkmar Andreae

The Locrian Ensemble – Rita Manning – Violin, Justin Pearson – Cello, Kathy Rockhill – Piano

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Neue Zürcher Zeitung – Tuesday Febraury  26 2008

www.nzz.ch

Der Mann besetzte während Jahrzehnten alle Stellen, die ein Musiker an den bürgerlichen Institutionen Zürichs innehaben konnte: Volkmar Andreae (1879–1962) war 43 Jahre lang Chefdirigent des Tonhalle-Orchesters, er leitete als Nachfolger von Carl Attenhofer während 25 Jahren das Konservatorium, er stand 47 Jahre lang an der Spitze des Gemischten Chors Zürich. Ausserdem dirigierte er den Männerchor Zürich und den Zürcher Studentengesangsverein, was ihm die Stelle eines Universitätsmusikdirektors einbrachte. Dass Andreae zudem während des Ersten Weltkriegs noch Kommandant des Schützenbataillons 3 war, liest man mit Erstaunen. Die Reputation des Musikers beschränkte sich weder auf Zürich noch auf die Schweiz. 1911 hätte er nämlich als Nachfolger von Gustav Mahler Dirigent der New Yorker Philharmoniker werden können, was er jedoch ablehnte.
Der Komponist Andreae stand schon zu Lebzeiten im Schatten des Dirigenten. Sein Werkverzeichnis umfasst Lieder, Chormusik mit und ohne Orchester, Kammermusik, Orchesterwerke und eine Oper. Dieses Werk ist auf heutigen Tonträgern nahezu inexistent. Die Internet-Homepage «Musinfo» weist einzig eine CD-Aufnahme des Männerchors «An die Hoffnung» op. 21 aus. Umso erfreulicher, dass nun mit dem Locrian-Ensemble eine namhafte englische Kammermusikformation zwei Klaviertrios von Volkmar Andreae eingespielt hat. Beim Label Guild legen die Geigerin Rita Manning, der Cellist Justin Pearson und die Pianistin Kathy Rockhill eine gelungene Aufnahme der Trios Opus 1 und Opus 14 vor. Die CD zeigt, wie sich der Kompositionsstil Andreaes in den 15 Jahren, die zwischen den Werken liegen, verändert hat. Das 1899 entstandene Klaviertrio in f-Moll steht noch ganz in der romantischen Tradition und gemahnt nicht nur einmal an Brahms. Es stammt aus Andreaes Studienzeit bei Franz Wüllner am Kölner Konservatorium. Eine gewandelte Musiksprache zeigt das in Zürich komponierte und 1914 veröffentlichte Klaviertrio in Es-Dur. Das Locrian-Ensemble verdeutlicht nicht nur solche stilistische Unterschiede, sondern nimmt sich dieser Musik mit einer solchen Leidenschaft an, dass man ihr gerne einmal im Konzertsaal begegnen möchte.

CLASSICAL LOST AND FOUND JANYARY 15 2008

Swiss musician Volkmar Andreae (1879-1962) was best known as a conductor. However, he was also an accomplished composer as evidenced by the two piano trios presented here. In fact they are so exemplary that one can only wonder why they have remained in obscurity all these years. Fortunately that injustice has been corrected with this magnificent release from Guild.
Written at the age of twenty-two, the first trio was Andreae’s “Opus 1” and appeared in 1901. It’s in three movements and very much in the tradition of Brahms and Dvorak. That’s not to say it’s simply a derivative clone of their chamber music. On the contrary there’s a freshness of melodic invention, structural integrity and sense of forward drive that make it very much an Andreae creation.
The first movement contrasts two remarkably lovely themes and is notable for its sophisticated development section. The adagio that follows is extraordinary, because it also functions as a scherzo. The composer does this by alternating the yearningly attractive melodic idea that opens the movement with another rather fleet-footed motif. However in the end, the first theme prevails justifying the marking of adagio. The finale opens with an anxiety ridden melody that plays hopscotch with a couple of other gorgeous thematic ideas during the course of what turns out to be a sonata-rondo movement. All of these motifs are ingeniously related to the trio’s opening and serve as the basis for its very satisfying conclusion.
The second trio, dating from 1914, is in four movements. It’s definitely a late romantic creation where the harmonic structure is more complex than in the first trio. Also, there’s a greater feeling of independence between each of the soloists. The early chamber music of Hans Pfitzner and Richard Strauss may come to mind as you listen to it.
The opening movement is striking for its thematic refinement and highly integrated construction. The overall tone is one of restraint leading to a peaceful conclusion. The adagio that comes next is meditative, except for an impassioned central section. The following presto is for the most part quite mercurial. But it’s also rather unusual, because it’s the reverse of the dual purpose adagio/scherzo in the first trio, and contains a languorously restrained mid-section. The finale begins in almost Brucknerian fashion with a rhythmically galloping motif reminiscent of the great Austrian master’s scherzos. A couple of lovely, more restrained melodies are then introduced and skillfully developed along with opening “gallop” idea. The trio ends in cyclic fashion as the theme it began with is reprised in a moving coda of remembrance.
The performances of both works by the Locrian Ensemble are exemplary and let’s just hope they give us some more lesser known romantic music very soon.
The recording is excellent with beautifully rounded piano tone and exceptionally smooth strings. Romantic chamber music fans and audiophiles alike will be delighted!
Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com)

Fanfare November/December 2007

Although the situation continues to look worse and worse for classical music, particularly in the United States, again there was an embarrassment of riches on CD and DVD. It was difficult to select my top five. Finally, I chose releases in which both repertoire and performances were revelatory.
Volkmar Andreae, remembered primarily as a conductor, was a fine composer too. In fact, these two piano trios are memorably good, and make one eager to explore more of his music. The first trio is Brahmsian, and the second trio adds hints of French impressionism. Both are played with sensitivity and a sense that the musicians are listening keenly to each other. Ray Tuttle
June 24, 2007 – CD of the Week – KBAQ 89.5 FM

STRAD AUGUST ISSUE 2007

Swiss-born Volkmar Andreae (1879-1962) was one of the most gifted and individual composers to emerge during the tumultuous period that saw the dying embers of high Romanticism virtually extinguished by the onslaught of modernism. Two things counted heavily against him, however. He was principally celebrated as a conductor and creatively he was an out-and-out tonalist with a tendency towards Brahms the traditionalist rather than the “new” music of Wagner and Liszt.
When Andreae composed his first Piano Trio in 1899 he was working as a repetiteur at the Munich Royal Opera. …….cast in three movements, it features a memorable finale that wears its ingenious sonata-rondo structure lightly via an enchanting flow of glowing, lyrical ideas. The Second Trio, in four movements, dates from 1914, by which time Andreae was principal conductor of the Zurich Tonhalle Orchestra and had recently benn appointed director of the Zurich Conservatoire, a post he held for 25 years. Clearly a number of stylistic influences had gone into the melting pot during he intervening period judging by the near-constant flow of Franco-Wagnerian harmonic colours and textural asides (particularly discernable in the presto third movement).
The Locrian Ensemble – violinist Rita Manning, cellist Justin Pearson and pianist Katherine Rockhill – plays with restrained passion and pure-toned eloquence that strikes right to the heart of these elusive yet richly rewarding scores. Manning and Pearson demonstrate a special empathy for Andreae’s yearning phrases, most notably in the haunting Molto adagio of the Second Trio. In even the most heated passages they tantalisingly maintain an appropriate chamber scale, further enhanced by Michael Ponder’s velvet-gloved engineering.
JULIAN HAYLOCK

International Record Review June 2007

When our Editor offered this CD for review, I asked myself where I had heard Volkmar Andreae’s name before. The answer was in connection with his career as a conductor. A quick look at the catalogues reveals a recording of Weber’s Konzertstück, Schumann’s Piano Concerto (with Gulda) and Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 23 (with Gieseking). He also had a reputation as a Bruckner conductor. However, few of Andreae’s recordings are available now.
In any event, his conducting seems to have overshadowed his work as a composer. He wrote two operas (one based an the life of Casanova!), several choral works and a fair amount of chamber music. He was born in Switzerland in 1879 and attended the conservatories in Bern and Cologne. Beginning in 1902, he spent over 45 years as a choral conductor in Zurich. His parallel position conducting that city’s Tonhalle Orchestra began in 1906, also until 1949.
This very enjoyable CD might tip the scales in favour of Andreae the composer. Fellow IRR contributor and helpful booklet note annotator Robert Matthew-Walker comments, `Hearing [the Op. 1 Piano Trio] today, over one hundred years after it appeared, we may pause and consider why such a fine score as this should have become relatively neglected.’
I couldn’t agree more, and would not hesitate to say the same about the Op. 14 Piano Trio, which appeared in 1914, 13 years after its predecessor.
The Op. 1 Trio, in three movements, is of a masculine melancholy that suggests Brahms. (Alternatively, you might persuade the unwary that the gorgeous opening theme is by Dvorak or Grieg.) Andreae’s themes are consistently appealing and memorable, and the work is so well constructed and melodic that one hardly notices, let alone cares, that he was not breaking much new ground. Matthew-Walker aptly describes the four-movement Op. 14 Trio as `a fascinating mixture of French Impressionism and Germanic seriousness – not wholly unlike that of Alberic Magnard or the earlier chamber music of Dohnanyi’. This is heady stuff. Worth singling out are the third movement, a haunting Presto more in name than in reality, and the bouncy Allegro con brio, assai vivace finale, music for the bunt which grafts a Scotch snap onto an Italian tarantella. It almost seems to belong to a different work, but I wouldn’t dream of banishing it!
Depending on the repertoire, the Locrian Ensemble can be a larger group, though of course just three of its members participate here. The difficulty in reviewing perfortnances of unfamiliar music is that one lacks a reference point. Having said that, I don’t feel that anything is missing from this recording. Rita Manning, Justin Pearson and Kathy Rockhill are solid musicians and it is obvious that they listen very closely to each other. The blend and the balance are excellent. I can imagine this music played more effusively, but I don’t think that it needs it; Andreae’s paired lilies need no gilding. Guild’s warm, honest engineering makes a superb CD even more recommendable. Get this!
Raymond S. Tuttle



MusicWeb Friday May 11 2007

Volkmar Andreae was born in Bern on 5 July 1879. During his studies he excelled both as composer and conductor, and published his first mature composition, the Piano Trio in F minor Opus 1, in 1901 when he was 22. Like others who might be discovering his music for the first time, the question immediately arises, ‘why haven’t we heard more?’ The booklet notes by Robert Matthew-Walker point out that, as a conductor, his mixed career might have militated against his acceptance as a composer as has happened with many other composer-conductors. His catalogue is certainly not huge, with a brace of symphonies and operas, plus a mixed bag of other vocal and chamber music to his name. All of this may have contributed to his neglect, but it would also appear to be the case that his musical style made him something of a dinosaur, or at the very least one of those unfortunate enough to fall in between easily definable periods in music. His is an idiom which sits within the post-Romantic German tradition and the late language of Brahms: whose music – while hardly high-Romantic in the mould of Liszt or Reger, is certainly not that of an animal of the 20th century.
The Piano Trio Op.1 appeared when Andreae was repetiteur at the Munich Royal Opera. As a conductor he later promoted the music of Bruckner, Mahler, Richard Strauss and Debussy, and his recordings of several symphonies of Bruckner were pioneering discs in their day. The attraction to Bruckner appears in some of the technical fingerprints which analyses reveal, but the overriding influence is that of Brahms. Play the opening of the third movement Allegro ma non troppo and you will have even knowledgeable friends scratching their heads trying to work out who it is if not Brahms. The music has a round, sonorous quality, and a lyrical charm and power which stands on its own two feet throughout. The string writing is well executed and thankfully lacking in scrubbing and repetitiousness, and with a virtuoso piano part this work deserves a place in the standard repertoire.
The second Piano Trio Op.14 appeared thirteen years after the first, and is in four movements rather than the First’s three. There is an immediate feeling of greater individuality about the music in this piece. Andreae’s language adopts a mixture – something approaching French Impressionism yet all the while holding on to a basis of Germanic seriousness. The gestures are nothing if not striking however, and after an almost Schubert-like opening theme the symphonic twelve minutes of the first Allegro moderato movement are filled with drama and expressiveness.
The second movement, Molto Adagio, has a chorale-like opening which promises something searching and emotive. Indeed a fascinating succession of variations on themes, which grow out of the piano’s harmonic basis, ensue. The inescapable feel is late-Romanticism, with an extended crescendo towards a central climax. In the second part of the movement the music gently returns to a calm version of that with which it began.
The third movement, Presto, has a remarkable structure, beginning quietly and very fast, before a much slower passage begins an entirely different sonic world. A standard tripartite form would lead expectations to a return to the Presto, but the composer surprises with an even slower section which modern ears might expect to lead attacca to a rousing finale. The Presto eventually returns however, transformed into an even lighter filigree. The final Allegro con brio assai vivace, opens with a jaunty ‘hunting’ theme whose calls, if slowed, could easily be taken for Bruckner. The movement proceeds with numerous twists and variations on the way: moods; light to elegiac to forcefully dramatic, all on the turn of a Swiss franc.
So, what is to be made of Volkmar Andreae on this showing? Bearing in mind that the weather map of cultural trends and influences moved with variable speed over the massive net cast by Austro-Germanic musical tradition, it is hardly surprising that such music was being created by young composers even up to the point at which World War I shattered the lives of so many. Andreae’s music is honest and executed with refinement and a genuinely inventive spirit.
The playing of the Locrian Ensemble is sensitive to the composer’s idiom, and champions his cause in a way which, one would hope, should increase his standing on the international concert stage. The recording is nicely balanced and warmly colourful, fairly close to the instruments, but without that glaring sharpness in the strings which can sometimes be tiring on the ears. If you like your chamber music with a Brahmsian feel, not too heavily romantic and wallowing but with plenty of expressive lyrical line and musical ‘oomph’, then this release deserves your attention.
Dominy Clements