Reviews

GMCD 7355 – Music by Volkmar Andreae (1879-1962) – Vol. 3

The Locrian Ensemble of London: Rita Manning (violin), Warren Zielinski (violin), Philip Dukes (viola), Justin Pearson (cello) Fali Pavri (piano)

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American Record Guide Nov. – Dez. 2011

This is chamber music by a well-known conductor but less-known composer, Volkmar Andreae (1879-1962), conductor of the Zurich Tonhalle Orchestra from 1906 to 1949. I have not heard the other two releases in this series, but judging from this release I would like to.
From almost classical beginnings in the lively 1898 quartet we reach some lively and humorous piano pieces by 1911, while the String Trio of 1917 has a fine personality, leading to his two acknowledged string quartets, to be found on Volume 2. The Violin Sonata, Op. 4 is another attractive piece from his early period. The playing is excellent and full of life and vigor. I recommend it if you are interested in conservative 20th Century music.
D MOORE

Fanfare Magazine July / August 2011

This is now the third CD by the Locrian Ensemble devoted to the chamber music of the Swiss composer and conductor Volkmar Andreae (1879-1962), best known today for his recordings of the Bruckner symphonies. While Bart Verhaeghe gave a mixed review in Fanfare 31:4 to the first CD, containing the two piano trios, applauding the works but not the performances, Raymond Tuttle placed it on his 2007 Want List. I gave a positive review to the second CD in 34:4, finding the two string quartets and flute quartet reviewed there attractive if not highly original works.
I may be warming to the task, or the composer, or both, but I find this release even more enjoyable than its predecessor. The early string quartet in E6 (without opus), a student work Andeae produced at age 19, is written in the vein of Mendelssohn and Schubert with a touch here and there of Dvorak and Grieg. It is sunny, tuneful, and engaging, an unabashed treat. By contrast, the op. 4 Violin Sonata from 1904, more intense and darker in mood, shows much more influence of the late Romantics. A thematic fragment in the opening virtually quotes the four-note first phrase of the first theme from the first movement of Dvorak’s Ninth Symphony, and the stylistic kinship to Korngold I noted in my previous review is quite apparent. More unexpectedly, I also find some surprising similarities in its mood and thematic material to the violin sonata of Bruno Walter. Well crafted and trenchant, the work holds my interest in every bar. The op. 20 piano pieces from 1911 also are very fine, with a strong resemblance to Grieg in their straightforward melodiousness and uncomplicated lefthand accompaniments. Finally, the op. 29 String Trio is again penned in a voice redolent of Mahler and Korngold, with somewhat off-kilter touches of folk melody; the finale has some stark dissonances that indicate an awareness (though not imitation) of the nascent Second Viennese School.
Once again the members of the Locrian Ensemble – violinists Rita Manning and Warren Zielinski, violist Philip Dukes, cellist Justin Pearson, and pianist Fali Pavri – prove themselves ded¬icated and persuasive advocates for this music. The only drawback is some occasional wiry sound and inexact intonation by first violinist Manning, especially during the sonata; a brief sampling of sound clips suggests that the rival performance of this work by Ilona Then-Bergh and Michael Schäfer on the Genuin label, positively reviewed by Jerry Dubins in 34:2, is superior. The program notes are a significant improvement on those in the previous album, though they still tend to run on and need a more objective editor. The recorded sound is up close and clear but not oppressive. Warmly recommended.
James A. Altena

Musik & Theater Juni 2011

Stilgemisch
Als Dirigent mit dem Schaffen vieler Zeitgenossen vertraut, hatte der Schweizer Komponist Volkmar Andreae (1879-1962) Mühe, zwischen Mahler und Strauss, Debussy und Strawinsky einen eigenen Weg zu gehen. Wie weit er sich von seinen mächtigen Vorbildern lösen konnte, um in kunstvollen Stilmischungen individuelle Töne anzuschlagen, zeigten schon die beiden Streichquartette in B-Dur und e-Moll auf der Guild-CD 7328. Noch in spätromantischen Bahnen bewegt sich das ziemlich konventionelle Streichquartett Es-Dur, dem sich das «Locrian Ensemble of London» mit frischem Zugriff nähert, um mit musikantischen Qualitäten zu glänzen. Mit munterem Serenadenton wartet das Streichtrio d-Moll auf, mit dramatischen Zuspitzungen die auf einem Viertonmotiv basierende Violinsonate D-Dur. Im Finale experimentierte Andreae schon um 1900 mit rhythmischen Kombinationen, indem er das Streichinstrument im Zweivierteltakt und das Klavier im Walzertakt spielen lässt. Erstaunlicherweise gerieten zusammen mit der reichhaltigen Kammermusik Andreaes auch die einfallsreichen, mitunter grüblerisch-dunklen «Sechs Klavierstücke» op. 20 in Vergessenheit. Der aus Indien stammende Pianist Fali Pavri erweckt diese Kostbarkeiten, die mit einem mäjestätischen Präludium beginnen und mit einer «Unruhigen Nacht» stürmisch enden, ausdrucksvoll zu neuem Leben.
Walter Labhart

Classical Lost and Found May 25 2011

This third installment in Guild’s survey of Swiss composer Volkmar Andreae’s (1879-1962) chamber music will be just as welcome a surprise as the first two (see the newsletters of 15 January 2008 and 23 July 2010). Best remembered in his day as a very successful conductor, this release proves once again his considerable abilities as a composer.
The program begins with an early unpublished string quartet predating the two numbered ones we told you about last July (see above). A student work written in 1898, it’s in four immaculately structured movements that belie its youthful origin. Admittedly there are strong affinities with the quartets of Brahms (1833-1897) and Dvorák (1841-1904), but who cares with music of this quality!
Jumping ahead almost twenty years, we have the string trio of 1917, which is a much more progressive work with some of that tonal peripateticism typically found in Max Reger (1873-1916), see the newsletter of 30 March 2008. Written at the height of World War I (1914-18), there’s a searching wistfulness about it which may reflect the composer’s reaction to that conflict.
Written a few years after the quartet, his violin sonata (c. 1900) is an undiscovered treasure. Lasting almost half an hour, its three movements are each superbly crafted, and contain a number of memorable themes. The composer’s style has become increasingly individualized. More specifically the work as a whole has the assurance of Richard Strauss’ (1864-1949) early chamber music long with a relaxed lyricism that seems to be an Andreae trademark. You’ll not soon forget the radiant lento!
The set of six piano pieces from 1911 that complete the program is the Swiss counterpart of such keyboard snapshot albums as Schumann’s (1810-1856) Carnaval (1833-35). Highlights include a skittering “Bacchantischer Tanz” (“Bacchic Dance”) [track-6], lovely “Catalonisches Ständchen” (“Catalonian Serenade”) [track-8], moving “Adagio” [track-9], and infectious Schumannesque “Unruhige Nacht” (“Restless Night”) [track-10].
As with their previous Andreae recordings for Guild (see above), the Locrian Ensemble of London deliver superb performances of everything, again making a strong case for his music. Known for unearthing rare repertoire deserving much wider exposure, keep your eye out for more enterprising Locrian releases.
The recordings are clear, well balanced, and project a convincing soundstage. But the strings are occasionally wiry, and one can’t help feeling a different venue, and/or microphone setup might have produced a warmer, richer instrumental timbre.
Bob McQuiston

Gramophone May 2011

The chamber music of a neglected Swiss craftsman, winningly played
Back in February 2010 I praised an earlier issue by the Locrian Ensemble of music by Swiss composer Volkmar Andreae (1879-1962). I immediately discovered that his writing was of high quality and beautifully crafted. Now comes a further instalment, including an earlier String Quartet, written during the composer’s studies at the Cologne Conservatoire, but in no way immature. Its slightly derivative quality is far from a drawback: indeed, it gives one the curious feeling that it is music one has heard and liked before. It opens with a swingingly arresting tune which dominates the first movement; then comes a characteristically sparkling Scherzo, an engagingly songful Andante with a delicate middle section and an exuberantly bouncing rondo finale. The String Trio, although it also has an underlying serenade-like flavour, is stronger in emotional feeling, noticeable at the opening of both outer movements (and especially the Molto lento introduction to the finale). The central Allegretto makes a light-hearted contrast with its wistful central section but the work closes spiritedly. The Violin Sonata is the longest, most expansive work here, freely lyrical and somewhat introspective in feeling, with one of the composer’s most passionately beautiful tunes at the heart of the slow movement, balanced by a whimsical finale. The performances of all three works are first-rate in every way and they are truthfully balanced and recorded. The first of the Six Piano Pieces (all brief) opens boldly but soon relents, and the remainder have appealing variety, the second (“Bacchantischer Tanz”) twinkles, the third poses a delicate question, the fourth (“Catalonisches Ständchen”) is quite charming, the fifth more expansively romantic and the restless sixth sheer bravura. They are sensitively played by Fali Pavri. The disc contains expansive, informative notes by Robert Matthew-Walker.
Ivan March

International Record Review March 2011

Andreae strikes again! In June 2007, when I reviewed Guild’s first offering of chamber music by Volkmar Andreae, I was initially befuddled (`Wasn’t he a conductar? I asked, in so many wards), but ultimately bewitched by the two piano trios contained therein. `Superb’ was my verdict then, and I have had no occasion to regret it. A follow-up CD was also praised in these pages in December 2009. Now it has fallen on me to review the latest release. It is like welcoming an old friend home.
Andreae the conductor was famous for his Bruckner. Nevertheless, Andreae’s chamber music never even comes close to following in that giant’s footsteps. In the first release, expert annotator (and advocate) Robert Matthew Walker described the Op. 14 Trio as `a fascinating mixture of French Impressionism and Germanic seriousness’. This time around, we are dealing with four works that span the period 1898 (the String Quartet) through 1917 (the String Trio), and it is fun to play `spot the influence’. French impressionism is less prominent. Instead, I hear Brahms and Dvorák in the earliest work. In the Violin Sonata, from a few years later, I was reminded several times, strangely, of Korngold. Strange indeed, because Andreae was actually born some 18 years before him! I hasten to add that Andreae’s music never sounds derivative.
I also hasten to add that he was a conservatory student in Cologne and not yet 20 when he composed the String Quartet in E flat. The composer later withdrew it, but there is nothing to be ashamed of. From its opening moments, in which a soaring melody (Brahms hybridized with Richard Strauss, perhaps) sweeps us off our feet, this quartet is a delight. While never simplistic, this is music that has been composed for our immediate enjoyment. Even so, the more one listens to it, the more one appreciates Andreae’s creativity and craftsmanship. The following movements are equally satisfying. First comes a triple-time Scherzo with a quirky middle section, an intermezzo-like Andante con moto that sings its way through both light and shade, and a finale whose triple-time `hunting horns’ pick up where the Scherzo left off.
The Violin Sonata also strides forward valiantly. Both instruments throw down the gauntlet, but just when the music seems about to settle into a `portrait of the young hero’ mode, Andreae swerves and moments of doubt or pathos are introduced. Interest never flags. The second movement is like a (mostly innocent) love scene for the two instruments, and the last movement, thanks in part to a four-note motif reprised from the earlier movements, gives the sonata a satisfying emotional and structural wholeness.
Not convinced yet? Then direct yourself to the Six Piano Pieces from 1911, which would find favour on any pianist’s programme. The Schumann-esque titles (`Frage’, `Unruhige Nacht’, etc.) are matched by a similarly Schumann-esque fancy and concision. The fourth piece, a winsome `Catalonian Serenade’, is only waiting to be inserted into the right television advertisement or motion picture, and then all the world (figuratively speaking!) will want to know who this Volkmar Andreae was.
Latest and not least is the String Trio, a compact work in three movements. RM-W writes that it `inhabits the world of the serenade rather than any grittier contrapuntal matter’. That’s not to say that it is a lightweight work, however. In fact, in many ways, it is the most serious work here, touched with many moments of nostalgia and melancholy, as if to reflect upon the war that surrounded Switzerland at that time, and what the war represented in terms of cultural change.
As on the earlier disc the members of the Locrian Ensemble communicate ably with us and with each other, Their generally soft-spoken and sincere musicianship puts Andreae’s music across effectively. In terms of her sound, Rita Manning will not be mistaken for one of today’s violin superstars, but this really is beside the point, because those superstars are out recording music that really doesn’t need to be recorded again. Manning and colleagues are more than capable, and no one is likely to challenge their work here in the near future. They have done us a service. The recorded sound is unfussy and true.
Raymond S. Tuttle

Klassik.com Ausgabe vom 15.03.2011

Erneut grüßt ein Bild aus den Schweizer Bergen vom Cover dieser dritten und letzten CD mit Kammermusik des überwiegend als Dirigent und langjähriger Leiter des Tonhalle Orchester Zürich bekannten Schweizers Volkmar Andreae (1879-1962) (mehr Informationen zu V. Andreae sind in unten verlinkter Kritik zu Vol.2 zu finden). Während sich Teil 1 dieser bei Guild erscheinenden Gesamteinspielung den beiden großen Klaviertrios und der zweite Teil den beiden Streichquartetten mit Opuszahl und dem Divertimento für Flöte und Streichtrio widmete, enthält die dritte CD gewissermaßen die Reste. Und wie das wahrscheinlich bei Gesamteinspielungen nicht nur bei unbekannten Komponisten immer der Fall ist, sind daher auch schwächere Werke mit dabei.
Formelhaftes Studienwerk
Dies betrifft vor allem das frühe Streichquartett Es-Dur, das Andreae 1898 während seines Studiums bei Franz Wüllner am Kölner Konservatorium komponierte. Formal mustergültig gebaut, sind viele Wendungen zu formelhaft und viele Begleitmuster zu einfallslos (Achtelketten). Auch geht Andreae kaum über die konservativen Lehrmuster Mendelssohn und Brahms hinaus und bringt wenig eigenes in die Komposition ein, wohl einer der Gründe, warum er selbst das Stück aus seinem Werkkatalog strich und dem ganz beachtlichen Quartett op.9 die ‚Nr.1‘ verlieh. Auch das bei den großen Quartetten auf Vol.2 so hoch gelobte The Locrian Ensemble of London wirkt bei diesem frühen Werk erstaunlich uninspiriert. Intonation und Zusammenspiel sind immer wieder grenzwertig, z.B. bei den zahlreichen Unisono-Passagen, die Interpretation nicht besonders sorgfältig ausgearbeitet.Ein weiteres Frühwerk ist die Violinsonate op.4, die um die Jahrhundertwende entstand. Trotz teilweise dramatischer Gesten ist sie ein eher leichtgewichtiges und eingängiges Werk, dessen Hauptmotiv bis zur Erschöpfung der Musiker und Zuhörer in immer neuem harmonischem oder dramatischem Kontext wiederholt wird. Stilistisch erinnert das Werk wieder an romantische Vorbilder wie Mendelssohn und Grieg, bleibt aber wie das Streichquartett oft zu formelhaft, obwohl Rita Manning und Fali Pavri ihr Bestes geben (eine Alternativaufnahme gibt es mit I. Then-Bergh und M. Schäfer bei Genuin GEN10167).
Romantische Wurzeln
Die sechs Klavierstücke op.20 scheinen Andreaes einzige veröffentlichte Werke für Soloklavier zu sein. Bei ihnen wird erneut deutlich, wie tief verwurzelt in der Romantik der für seine Bruckner-Interpretationen berühmte Dirigent als Komponist war. 1911 komponiert erinnern die sechs Charakterstücke in Tonsprache und Gestus an R. Schumann, gehen aber erstaunlich souverän mit den Möglichkeiten des Klaviers um, z.B. das letzte ‘Unruhige Nacht’, ein virtuoser Hexentanz oder grollendes Unwetter.
Das einzige wirklich bedeutende Werk dieser CD in einer häufig vernachlässigten Gattung ist Andreaes 1917 komponiertes Streichtrio op.29. Die ersten beiden Sätze sind in ihrem tänzerischen Tonfall eher serenadenhaft und erinnern mit ihren Verfremdungen immer wieder an vergleichbare Symphonie-Sätze G. Mahlers. The Locrian Ensemble of London wirkt bei diesem Werk wieder viel engagierter und spielt mit einer klanglichen Fülle, die nach einem größeren Ensemble als einem Trio klingt. Besonders schön ist das große Cellosolo im Mittelteil des zweiten Satzes. Stilistisch etwas persönlicher mit seinem tonalen Schwanken ist der zweigeteilte letzte Satz, der einem langen langsamen Teil ein schnelles Finale entgegensetzt.
War der Klang der beiden Streichquartette auf Vol.2 noch sehr hallig, so sind die reinen Streicherstücke bei dieser an einem anderen Ort aufgenommenen CD sehr direkt, so dass die Ungenauigkeiten in der Ausführung (v.a. im Quartett) noch deutlicher zum Tragen kommen. Dagegen befindet sich das Klavier scheinbar in einer anderen Akustik und bleibt auch bei der Violinsonate etwas zu sehr im Hintergrund. Zusammengefasst ist dies eine CD, die deutlich gemischtere Eindrücke zurückläßt als ihre Vorgänger. Für Hörer, die die Musik Andreaes kennenlernen möchten empfiehlt sich eher eine der beiden anderen CDs. Für Komplett-Sammler und Streichtriofans ist diese CD aber ohne Alternative.