CD Review: ROBERT FUCHS — COMPLETE STRING QUARTETS (Minguet Quartet)

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by Frank Arthur on February 19, 2018

in CD-DVD

THE FUCHS, THE PROUD, THE MINGUET

When Robert Fuchs died in 1927, just a few days after his 80th birthday, he was already a forgotten figure. He had been a friend of Brahms, who praised his music warmly, and he had taught a whole generation of composers including Sibelius, Mahler, Wolf, Zemlinsky, Schmidt and Schreker. In the years following the First World War, Fuchs went on happily writing music in a Brahmsian idiom, as though time had stood still.

The four string quartets recorded here, composed in the wake of Brahms’s death, can hardly have set the world alight even when they were new, but they show how amiable and skillfully put together Fuchs’s music was. These two discs are the best I’ve heard of Fuchs’s oeuvre. Unlike the orchestral pieces where his material seems stretched thin, here we find lovely tunes set in an appropriately intimate context. There are many memorable moments throughout all four pieces, including a ghostly, puckish scherzo in the E Major quartet which contains a whiff of gypsy music.

The finale in each case is more divertimento-like than symphonic, but the A minor has an attractively lyrical slow movement, as well as a melancholic minuet clearly modeled on the parallel movement from Brahms’s Quartet in the same key, Op. 51/2. It also breaths of the same air that one finds in Schubert’s later quartets (especially in the opening movement). Rather than trying to storm the heights, Fuchs revels in the pure fun of music-making and the results are delightful. The Minguet Quartet plays all this music with enthusiasm and energy; the players seem to delight in the music as well, giving us warm, gentle performances which make this a great choice for relaxing with –whether by the fireplace after dinner, or on a sunny afternoon in a hammock. The sound is superb.

Minguet Quartet
Robert Fuchs
Complete String Quartets Vol. 1 & 2
(A major, Op. 106; A minor, Op. 62; C major, Op. 71; E major, Op. 58)
disc one: 8 tracks | 57:48
disc two: 8 tracks | 63:52
release of previously recorded material January 19, 2018
available on Amazon

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