Talent will out. But a little hustle helps. Gustav Mahler, Erich Wolfgang Korngold, and Alexander Zemlinsky all worked to get their music before the public. Their teacher, Robert Fuchs did not. Fuchs preferred the life of quiet academia. Although he wrote music of exceptional quality, he was indifferent to its fate.
The collected cello works of this self-effacing composer show a rare talent and one that can still surprise. Fuchs was active at the tail end of the Romantic period, living into the mid-1920s. While his music remained mostly tonal, his works — such as the cello sonatas here — could be quite adventurous in their harmonies.
Brahms was a keen admirer of Fuchs. The Cello Sonata No. 1, Op. 29 suggests that admiration was mutual. This 1881 work starts out with a broad, Brahmsian theme that swiftly moves off in its own direction. There’s no way to mistake this for Brahms. The phrasing and harmonic motion are all Fuch’s own.
The second cello sonata, written in the 1910s, is much more sophisticated. Compared to the first sonata, the texture is thicker, and the structure much more compact. Fuchs says what he needs to more efficiently. And while the texture is thick, the harmonies seem leaner. Fuchs was an academic, but he wasn’t out of touch.
Rounding out the release are his Phantastasiestucke, Op. 78 for cello and piano. These seven little works can be enjoyed individually, or in a single sitting. The pieces are organized in an arch – pieces 1 and 7 are complementary, as are 2 and 6, and so on.
Martin Ostertag and Oliver Triendl make a good team. At times the cello and piano seem to blend together. Occasionally, Ostertag’s playing has an edge to it. But overall, I found these performances well-suited to the music. And I can only hope this recording may encourage other cellists to consider these beautiful works.
Robert Fuchs: Complete Works for Cello and Piano
Martin Ostertag, cello; Oliver Triendl, piano
One Note Music TXA 16078