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Romantic Trios for Oboe, Viola, and Piano by SCHUMANN, LOEFFLER, KLUGHARDT & KAHN – Ensemble Schumann – MSR Classics

“Romantic Trios for Oboe, Viola, and Piano” = SCHUMANN: Marchenerzahlungen, Op. 132; LOEFFLER: Deux Rhapsodies; KLUGHARDT: Schilflieder, Op. 28; KAHN: Serenade in f, Op. 73 – Ensemble Schumann – MSR Classics MS 1423, 65:00 [Distr. by Albany] *****:

Though these works span a one-hundred-and-fifty-year time period, their instrumentation and middle-register sonic qualities make them sound like close cousins indeed. Schumann’s piece is for clarinet, but he was never particularly concerned about details in this regard, and viola substitution was a common practice then and now. The exquisite coloring and characterful rendering of these four small works makes the whole one of the jewels in his late crown.

Loeffler, for many years the Assistant Concertmaster for the Boston Symphony, remains an important fixture in the American musical lexicon despite his Alsatian background and heavy French influence. But he worked his combined German/French skills into hothouse compositions of great intensity and dazzling rhapsodic counterpoint to create a piece of rich nuances and brashly varied and haunting moods.

August Klughardt became a confirmed Wagnerian after meeting him and Liszt while serving as court music director in Weimar, the influence easily detected in these five “lieder”. They are not transcriptions of actual songs, but tone poems based on the written words. Robert Kahn’s Serenade is written for a plethora of possibilities in instrumentation, and this 1922 piece still smacks of the influence of the early romantics like Schumann and Mendelssohn.

Ensemble Schumann is perfection in these performances, granting us the opportunity to hear readings of exceptional warmth and fervent passion. Each member comes across as an exemplary virtuoso in his or her own right, and yet they play as if wedded for a half century (actually only since 2005). The stunning performances and amazingly radiant tonal qualities took me quite by surprise, and easily add to the glisten of these already coal-fired pieces. An outstanding issue!

—Steven Ritter

 

 

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