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Max BRUCH (1838-1920)
Concerto in E minor for clarinet, viola and orchestra Op. 88 (1911) [17:36]
Eight Pieces for clarinet, viola and piano, Op. 83 (1910) [35:44]
Eva Katrine Dalsgaard (viola), Giovanni Punzi (clarinet), Tanja Zapolski (piano)
Copenhagen Phil/Vincenzo Milletari
rec. 2017/18, Royal Danish Academy of Music, Copenhagen
BRILLIANT 95673 [53:00]

Bruch is an intriguing late-romantic figure whose reputation has been anchored from the perspective of our century by his First Violin Concerto.

This is a composer whose legacy is still seen as the work of something of a subsidiary romantic - beloved but subsidiary. His life and music have been most thoroughly and sympathetically addressed by Christopher Fifield. His biography is well worth your time and amongst much else will remind you of Bruch’s strong Liverpool connections. It will also lead you onwards to works that extend far beyond the symphonies (3) and scores for violin and orchestra (including three numbered concertos). Accardo and Masur made early inroads into these principal works on Philips and are still reliable listening. CPO, along with much else from Bruch, also continue to make sun-dappled efforts to bring us his choral and orchestral works: Arminius and Lied von der Glocke and the grand opera Die Loreley, just issued on 777 005-2. We should also bear in mind the Orfeo CD of Bruch's major oratorio Moses as conducted by Claus Peter Flor.

Here, from Brilliant, is an uncomfortable coupling. Uncomfortable because the disc marries a concerto with eight pieces for chamber trio. In fact, the two works cozied up are almost of a piece. The Eight Pieces for an unconventional chamber trio have a greater range of mood than the concerto. It's only a shame that another work was not added to the complement to bring the disc above a scant 53:27 - but there are compensations.

The music is of a sweet disposition which, especially in the case of the concerto, traces its origins back to bel canto. Across its three movements (I. Andante con moto 6:56; II. Allegro moderato 5:27; III. Allegro molto 5:13) the two instruments seem to lean affectionately towards each other. There is no disparity of approach; no vying for attention. Their shared communing is reminiscent of the manner of the Brahms Double and the Mozart Sinfonia Concertante K364. The third movement is vigorous and almost military. There is one other Bruch double concerto: a Concerto for two pianos recorded by Nathan Twining and Martin Berkofsky. The well-matched Giovanni Punzi (clarinet) and Eva Katrine Dalsgaard (viola) from the Concerto are joined by Tanja Zapolski (piano) for Bruch's Eight Pieces which were written in 1910, a year before the Double Concerto. These inventive pieces, of between 2:32 and 6:41, hold the attention quite nicely. The third, an Andante Con Moto, is quite touching. Punzi provides the helpful liner notes. The recordings are honest, avoid excessive glamour and are well-proportioned.

These works of the twentieth century have their roots, trunk, branches and foliage struck joyously deep in the previous century.

Rob Barnett

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