Hello and welcome to Compact Discoveries. I’m your guide, Fred Flaxman, and I’m going to fill this hour and the next Compact Discoveries hour with my very latest compact discoveries: the delightful serenades of the Romantic period Austrian composer and teacher of Mahler, Wolf, and Sibelius -- Robert Fuchs.
Quite frankly, the reason I’m devoting two hours to this undeservedly little known composer’s music is because I can’t decide which movements of his serenades I would select over others if I were just to devote one hour to this subject. And I think you’ll enjoy them all, too. If, by chance, you miss the other hour, you can always stream it on demand through our website, compactdiscoveries.com.
MUSIC: down and out
It is very strange that these pieces are not better known. No less a composer than Johannes Brahms held Robert Fuchs in the highest esteem. But more about Fuchs a bit later. First let’s hear his Serenade No. 1 in D Major, Opus 9, as performed by the Cologne Chamber Orchestra conducted by Christian Ludwig from a Naxos compact disc recording.
MUSIC: Fuchs: Serenade No.1 in D, Op. 9 performed by the Cologne Chamber Orchestra conducted by Christian Ludwig [Naxos 8.5722221, Tracks 1- 5] [19:51]
Robert Fuchs’s Serenade No. 1 in D Major, Opus 9, performed by the Cologne Chamber Orchestra under conductor Christian Ludwig.
You are listening to “Robert Fuchs’s Serenades, Part 1” on this hour of Compact Discoveries. I’m your guide, Fred Flaxman.
[optional one-minute break not included in the total timing]
Robert Fuchs lived from 1847 until 1927. After his death he all but vanished from public consciousness. Yet Johannes Brahms, who was not generally known for expressing his feelings of approval, wrote about Fuchs’s music: “Everything is so fine, so skilful, so charmingly invented, that one always has pleasure in it.”
This from a man who told other composers seeking his advice: “Go on amusing yourself in the same way.” Max Bruch -- who was just a few years younger than Brahms -- once sweated his way through a whole piece only to be asked by Brahms: “Where do you find such beautiful manuscript paper?”
Fuchs was the youngest of 13 children. He was a very musical child, becoming proficient on the piano, organ, violin, and flute. He also received a thorough grounding in harmony and counterpoint. At 18 he moved to Vienna, where he eked out a living as a rehearsal pianist, piano teacher, and church organist.
At the ame time he took composition lessons at the Conservatoire. His first un-numbered Symphony in G Minor was not particularly successful, but two years later, in 1874, he wrote the serenade that we just heard, which was a great hit. The next year Fuchs joined the teaching staff at the Vienna Conservatoire.
The impressive list of pupils who passed through his composition classes over the years includes George Enescu, Erich Korngold, Gustav Mahler, Franz Schmidt, Jean Sibelius, Hugo Wolf, and Alexander Zemlinsky, all of whom went on to become much more famous than their teacher. In fact the Conservatoire even offered Sibelius his old teacher’s post when Fuchs retired in 1912.
Since Fuchs’s Serenade No. 1 was such a resounding critical success at its first performance, he followed it up by composing another string serenade a couple of years later, in 1876. Let’s hear that work now from the same Naxos CD with the Cologne Chamber Orchestra conducted by Christian Ludwig.
MUSIC: Fuchs: Serenade No.2 in C, Op. 14 performed by the Cologne Chamber Orchestra conducted by Christian Ludwig [Naxos 8.5722221, Tracks 6 - 9]
Robert Fuchs’s Serenade No. 2 in C Major, Op. 14, performed by the Cologne Chamber Orchestra conducted by Christian Ludwig.
We have time for one more piece from this same Naxos compact disc: Fuchs’s Andante grazioso and Capriccio, Op. 63.
By the time Fuchs came to compose this piece in 1900, his old lyricism had become tempered with emotions that are darker than his youthful serenades. As Anthony Short wrote in his program notes for this CD, “When Fuch died in 1927, the new serialism of Schoenberg, Berg, and Webern signalled the future of Austrian music. Fuchs’s familiar world of polite, bourgeois music-making was now as passé as the faded imperial and royal spendours of Franz Josef’s defunct Austria-Hungary.”
Personally, I’d rather listen to Fuchs.
MUSIC: Fuchs: Andante grazioso and Capriccio, Op. 63, performed by the Cologne Chamber Orchestra conducted by Christian Ludwig [Naxos 8.5722221, Track 11]
Robert Fuchs’s Andante grazioso and Capriccio, Op. 63, performed by the Cologne Chamber Orchestra conducted by Christian Ludwig.
And that concludes this hour of Compact Discoveries. Join me next time for another hour of “Robert Fuchs’s Serenades,” as he ended up writing five of them and the others are at least as pleasant listening as the ones you just heard. This is Fred Flaxman thanking you for listening.
ANNOUNCER (Steve Jencks): Compact Discoveries is made possible in part by the financial support of Isabel and Marvin Leibowitz, and an anonymous donor from Palm Beach, Florida. And by contributions to local public radio stations by listeners like you. Thank you. [0:13]
Total Program Timing: 59:00