Danish String Quartet / Sebastian Manz

Fuchs, Brahms: Clarinet Quintets

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The music of Austrian composer Robert Fuchs attracted faint praise from Brahms, who supported Fuchs but remarked that he was "never really profound." Brahms was notoriously stingy with praise for other composers, however, and the comment is not quite fair. Yes, the Fuchs Clarinet Quintet in E flat major, Op. 102, recorded here is clearly modeled on the Brahms Clarinet Quintet in B minor, Op. 115, that accompanies it on the album, right down to the episodic series of variations that makes the finale. And yes, there is nothing in the Fuchs like the totally arresting harmonic ambiguity with which the Brahms begins and pervades the entire work. This said, the Fuchs work is more than an inconsequential Brahms knock-off. Composed in 1911, it has a lovely retrospective feel. It captures the essence of Brahms' deep motivic manipulation, and it draws on the more chromatic language of Strauss just enough to provide a few unexpected turns along the way. It has something of the charm of Carl Nielsen's evocations of Mozart. The other selling point of this release is the strong performance of the Brahms itself, with everything given its proper weight in a deliberate yet precise reading. A must for anyone interested in the turn-of-the-century scene, for Fuchs was the teacher of a host of composers of the early 20th century, and a pleasant find for any Brahms lover.

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