Herzogenberg: Piano Quartet in B flat, Op. 95; String Trio in F, Op. 27/2; Legends, Op. 62

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COMPOSERS: Herzogenberg
LABELS: CPO
WORKS: Piano Quartet in B flat, Op. 95; String Trio in F, Op. 27/2; Legends, Op. 62
PERFORMER: Andreas Frölich (piano); Belcanto Strings
CATALOGUE NO: 999 710-2
Exactly 100 years after Heinrich von Herzogenberg’s death, this disc doubles at a stroke the available recordings of his chamber music. He was both inspired by Brahms and a victim of that influence, so strong that it dominates much of the harmony, the textures, and the expressive passion of the Quartet. Melodies, though, are his alone – a glorious second subject of the opening movement; a captivating stillness at the opening of the Notturno second movement; a playful scherzo, strings playing pizzicato before a series of capricious harmonic side-steps. The finale is here rather hard-pressed – some lighter, defter touch would have heightened the contrast of the impassioned climaxes.

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The Trio has some arresting moments: solo pizzicato cello opening, responded to in turn by viola and violin; a gentle barcarolle second movement. Belcanto Strings is a fine ensemble, exploring and varying balance and texture (often double-stopped to create quartet density) with sensitivity and imagination.

Herzogenberg described the second of the three Legends as a Triumphal Minuet ‘alla gamba forte’ – on a Strong Leg – after a debilitating illness affecting his joints. A rather pallid cello fails to match the powerful pianism here, though the Schumannesque third Legend is beautifully managed.

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A rewarding release which will delight all Brahmsians. George Pratt