WORKS: Kol nidrei; Romance, Op. 85; Six Pieces for Piano, Op. 12; Eight Pieces for clarinet, viola and piano, Op. 83
PERFORMER: Robert Plane (clarinet), Philip Dukes (viola), Sophia Rahman (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CD DCA 1133
In his day, Bruch was renowned above all as a choral composer, and his oratorio Odysseus was once conducted by Brahms. But Brahms rightly criticised Bruch for his lack of development over the years, and certainly history seems to have largely passed him by. In 1910, while Schoenberg was busy with Erwartung, he was still happily producing melancholy pieces in the style of Schumann. Nevertheless, his Eight Pieces for clarinet, viola and piano are attractive miniatures, especially when played as persuasively as here. Much less viable are the solo piano pieces of Op.12, composed nearly half a century earlier: Sophia Rahman does her best with their undistinguished material, but can’t rescue them from banality.
The remaining items here are transcriptions. The Romance of 1911, originally for viola and orchestra, shows Bruch’s melodic gift in its best light, and it’s good to get to know it; but Kol nidrei is familiar enough in its version for cello and orchestra, and the rather utilitarian arrangement with piano arpeggios doing duty for the harp doesn’t really do it any favours. Bruch admirers will want to acquire this finely performed disc, but those looking for worthy companion-pieces to the deservedly popular G minor Violin Concerto would do better to explore the composer’s symphonies. Misha Donat