Robert Fuchs Serenades – Attractive Works by Mahler’s Teacher

Naxos completes its survey of Fuchs’ Serenades with this release (the first two were released last year with the same performers). It’s a collection well worth owning.

Robert Fuchs is perhaps best remembered as a composition teacher. His impressive list of pupils include Gustav Mahler, Hugo Wolf, Erich Korngold, Jean Sibelius and other major composer who defined the post-romantic scene of the early 20th Century. During his lifetime, though, he was also highly regarded as a composer. These works attest to his skill.

By definition, a serenade is a fairly light work, and all three of these compositions have that spirit. They’re short, amiable compositions that present their attractive melodies in a straight-forward manner. That’s not to say they’re simple works. Fuchs uses a rich harmonic language that provides subtle emotional inflections. Chromatic relationships help the music glide smoothly from one idea to the other, all the while sounding like an organic whole.

To my ears, the serenades reminded me somewhat of Elgar’s Serenade for Strings, which was written around the same time. The Cologne Chamber Orchestra, under the direction of Christian Ludwig plays with a light touch, which brings these serenades to life. Brahms liked Fuchs’ music very much. I did, too.

Robert Fuchs: Serenade Nos. 3 & 4 & 5 For String Orchestra 
Cologne Chamber Orchestra; Christian Ludwig, conductor

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