Robert Fuchs – Symphony No. 2, Op. 45
(b. Frauenthal, 5 February 1847 – d. Vienna, 19 February 1927)
History has not been very kind to the music of Robert Fuchs, as few of his major works are still in the repertoire today. He was a composition graduate of the Vienna Conservatory and eventually succeeded his teacher as Professor of Harmony from 1875-1912. The list of his pupils include some of the most illustrious composers of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, including Gustav Mahler, Hugo Wolf, Jean Sibelius, Alexander von Zemlinsky and Erich Wolfgang Korngold. His music shares a certain aesthetic kinship with the works of Johannes Brahms and indeed Fuchs was also a personal friend of Brahms who stated: “Fuchs is a splendid musician. What a pleasure it is to look at his music — so elegant, so skillful, so charming!”
Fuchs was prolific, composing two operas, three masses, five serenades, five symphonies, a piano concerto, two piano trios, four string quartets, two piano quartets, two cello sonatas, a viola sonata, a double-bass sonata, six violin sonatas, organ works, fantasy pieces, and much other music, including fifty songs and numerous works for piano solo.
His compositions were highly regarded during his lifetime with his Symphony No. 1, winning the Beethoven Prize in composition from the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde in Vienna. The Vienna Philharmonic premiered the First Symphony in 1884. Upon Brahms’ recommendation, Simrock soon published it. The next year Hans Richter conducted the London premiere. Both the London and Vienna premieres were to critical and audience acclaim. The Vienna Philharmonic in 1887 again to critical and audience acclaim premiered the Second Symphony. Both works were performed in 1923 during celebrations for his 75th birthday. These celebrations lasted an entire year, with numerous performances of his music, attesting to his fame during his lifetime. After his passing in 1927 performances of his symphonies all but ceased.
An excellent recording of Symphonies No. 1 and 2 by the WDR Sinfonieorchester Köln (CPO 777830) has done much to rekindle interest in this music as witnessed by these reviews:
“This highly imaginative music rich in ideas makes a very strong impression and has room for carefully and lovingly elaborated details, refined colors, and dynamic nuances first revealing its outstanding qualities. . Presto Classical review
(The) Second Symphony surges with a more heroic Egmont-style than the First. Among the Brahms symphonies it can be counted alongside the Fourth. It has a particularly gracious and silvery Menuetto third movement. In the finale Fuchs returns to the Weber-like energy and Beethovenian tempests of the first movement.” Rob Barnett
“Fuchs‘ music is distinctive in a low-key way, and can be mistaken for derivative of his predecessors Schubert and Brahms, and sometimes strongly hints at the music of his pupil Mahler. I am convinced that it is worth not only a listen but also some commitment, and have not regretted my own, for his best music sings in a way that I am convinced is important.” Eric Schissel
“Fuchs’s music seems to embody the aesthetic of his older colleague at the Vienna Conservatory, Eduard Hanslick, who rejected the idea that the aim of music was to plumb philosophical depths or encode psychological states and argued instead that musical beauty derived essentially from the creation of “regular and pleasing” sonic forms.” Benjamin M. Korstvedt
“Both symphonies (No. 1 and No. 2) are dynamic and very well thought-out. The orchestrations are well conceived and something rather Brahmsian…Do not expect much in the way of the modernism to come. Ignore all of that and you have a symphonist with something to say and the full means to say it…” Gregor Applegate Edwards
Karl Hinterbichler, University of New Mexico, 2016
For performance material please contact Simrock, Berlin.