Fuchs: Complete works for cello and piano

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COMPOSERS: Fuchs
LABELS: Biddulph
WORKS: Complete works for cello and piano
PERFORMER: Nancy Green (vlc), Caroline Palmer (pno)
CATALOGUE NO: LAW 005 DDD
There’s no avoiding the comparison with Brahms: Robert Fuchs was a younger colleague and friend, and the music will appeal to anybody who wishes Brahms had written more cello sonatas – which surely means all who love the cello. You might imagine an Austrian Stanford with a more attractive balance of heart to brain. The music is simpler than Brahms’s, so it sounds earlier; but if you know the older composer’s sonatas well, you will keep hearing echoes of them in Fuchs, particularly the Brahms E minor with its patient and sometimes passionate lyrical flow, its dark instrumental colouring, and those passages where the cello holds on to a low line while the piano exults in resonant chords above it.

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All the same, the first Fuchs sonata opens with a long, generous melody whose rocking notes are like one of Rachmaninov’s fingerprints; and the rest of the pieces, from the first decade of the 20th century, show a fully formed, conservative personal style which is at ease with its models – Mendelssohn as much as Schumann in the Fantasy Pieces – while not overwhelmed by any of them. The fourth of this group, had it been written 30 years earlier, would very likely have become a Victorian hit; and melody usually predominates, even in the more rhapsodic and exploratory Second Sonata. It sounds as though Fuchs must have been a thoroughly nice man; too nice to be a great composer. Two fine, lyrical musicians play with scrupulous affection. Robert Maycock