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Volkmar ANDREAE (1879-1962)
Piano Concerto in D (1898) [27:20]
Konzertstück in B minor, for Piano and Orchestra (1900) [15:47]
Violin Concerto in F minor, Op.40 (1935) [19:42]
Rhapsodie for Violin and Orchestra, Op.32 (1919-20) [11:51]
Fali Pavri (piano); Christian Altenburger (violin)
Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra/Marc Andreae
rec. 4-5 July 2012, The Lighthouse, Poole, Dorset. DDD
GUILD GMCD 7394 [75:10]

To my knowledge this is the fourth disc on Guild to be devoted to the music of this somewhat forgotten figure of Swiss music. Volkmar Andreae, composer and conductor was during his lifetime probably better known as a conductor. He served in this capacity with the Zurich Tonhalle for forty years. Back in 2009 I reviewed a disc of his chamber music (GMCD7328) in which I had to comment that his was a new name to me.
 
The present new disc opens with two unpublished works beginning with an early teenage piece, the Piano Concerto. I failed to mention in the above description of Andreae the word ‘pianist’ as he premiered this concerto at the tender age of 19. This was a year before he had been soloist in Beethoven’s Emperor Concerto. Any young man who manages to write and play such a gushing and confident concerto deserves our unlimited respect and regard. No matter how you think of it this is a fine work and the second subject of the first movement is an absolutely ravishing melody that Brahms would have been proud to write. His presence overshadows the second movement. The music is almost derivative with its slow harmonic pace, enharmonic modulations and pedal points but its dreamy quality is quite captivating. Each movement grows easily into the next and the finale starts with lively dance-like melody which is arrested in its progress by a slower section. This is less memorable than in movement one but acts as a suitable foil to the slightly bombastic ending.
 
Soon after writing this Concerto Andreae tackled the genre again in a single movement Konzertstück. The booklet notes by Robert Matthew-Walker talk about the influences on this work and Franck is mentioned as is the Concert Fantasy of Tchaikovsky and even Max Reger. Indeed, by coincidence, I had been listening to some Reger before putting on this work by Andreae. My musician son thought that it was the same composer in its opening Lento section. For myself I heard Rachmaninov and, as enjoyable as this piece is, and as fulfilling in its melodic ideas, rich harmonies and fine orchestration I have to disagree with Matthew-Walker when he says that the piece has “an individual voice for its time and locale”. Yet it must be admitted that Andreae was only 21 and Rachmaninov had not yet quite written his 1st Concerto. At any rate it reaches in its closing Allegro a typically grand climax and one certainly feels a rounded sense of completion.
 
In the case of the two concertante works for violin and orchestra Andreae worked the other way around with the shorter, Rhapsody coming first. Written for the great Szigeti but taken up by others in various countries, it created a marvellous impression at the time with the composer often complimented by the great and the good. The slow and delicate opening is especially striking with much use of a gentle timpani roll. The loose form enables the composer to explore a wide variety of textures and memorable ideas and it’s difficult to know why the work has disappeared from concert or even radio repertoire in the last fifty or more years.
 
It comes as quite a surprise to encounter the grinding dissonances and dark loneliness of the opening of the first movement of the Violin Concerto of fifteen years later. A similar surprise hit me when I first heard the contrasted two string quartets on the chamber music disc mentioned above.
 
Intriguingly the concerto can be seen as a three movement work - and Guild have given it three tracks - or as five because the first movement moves from its serious opening to a dancing Allegro after a couple of minutes and then is succeeded by a brief fugue which links into a beautiful Adagio. This links again into a really happy Allegro molto to close the work. This defies any alarm bells you may have heard earlier. It’s a real journey, in fact. It is also suggested that it is a two-movement work with the fugue beginning the second part. There is much to admire in this piece with its contrasts of mood and speed. Even within the Allegro Vivace of movement one there are dreamy sections and the writing for violin - originally for Adolf Busch, is virtuoso and lyrical all in one.
 
The performances are wonderful and the recording immediate and clear as one has come to expect from this enterprising company. Marc Andreae is to be much thanked for the promotion of the music of his relation (the CD booklet does not say what this relationship actually is) . The soloists, although not household names, are ideal: lyrical and powerful when needed, showing a thorough understanding of the style and techniques required.
 
This disc would make be a good place to start an Andreae collection.
 
Gary Higginson 

See also review by Rob Barnett
 
Volkmar Andreae on Guild
Symphony GMCD 7377
Songs GMCD 7237
Piano Trios GMCD 7307
String and Flute Quartets GMCD 7328


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