Gems Rediscovered features unknown and unrecorded works for viola and piano from lesser-known composer of the Romantic tradition. It is Delos’ pleasure to highlight these composers on The Delos Insider:
Austrian Robert Fuchs (1847-1927) is perhaps the most well-known of the composers featured here. He attended the Vienna Conservatory, studying with Otto Dessoff and Joseph Hellmesberger. He later joined the composition and music theory faculty there in 1875, and taught such prominent composers such as Hugo Wolf, Gustav Mahler, Jean Sibelius and Alexander von Zemlinsky. Fuchs remained at the Conservatory until 1912.
A prolific composer, Fuchs composed in a number of genres, including symphonies, piano and organ works, as well as serenades and chamber works, which were highly popular. His compositional style was certainly influenced by Franz Schubert. In a 50-year retrospective on Fuchs, Robert Pascall notes: “One of his principal, lifelong gifts was a rich lyricism, and many of his works are dominated by simple but haunting neo-Schubertian melodies.” Furthermore, “Fuchs’ style developed quietly towards refinement, economy and thematic ingenuity.” (The Musical Times, vol. 118, no. 1608, February 1977, 115-117.) Fuchs was also befriended and mentored by Johannes Brahms; the usually abrasive Brahms paid Fuchs this compliment: “Fuchs is a splendid musician, everything is so fine and so skillful, so charmingly invented, that one is always pleased.” (Richard Heuberg: Erinnerungen an Johannes Brahms; Tagebuchnotizen aus den Jahren 1875 bis 1897, Tutzing, 1971, p. 48.)
During his life, Fuchs’ music was not so well known outside of Vienna. Fuchs did little to promote his own music in larger circles despite the praise he received from Brahms and famous contemporary conductors such as Arthur Nikisch, Felix Weingartner and Hans Richter. The first movement of the Sonata in D Minor for Viola and Piano, Allegro moderato, ma passionato, is a traditional sonata form which features intricate passagework in the piano and singing lines in the viola, certainly not unlike a Schubert Lied. The second movement, Andante grazioso, is a minuet and trio compound ternary form, which features a dialogue between viola and piano at the outset. The final movement, Allegro vivace, is a seven-part rondo, in which the primary theme is remarkably lyrical and contrasts with the more detailed passagework that follows in the other sections. Fuchs references the opening octaves from the very beginning of the movement near the end, as well as repeated sixteenth-note passages to end the piece with a flourish.
— Program notes by Dr. Amy Engelsdorfer, Assistant Professor of Music, Luther College