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Dip Your Ears, No. 84

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Ludwig Thuille, Piano Quintets
Vogler Q4t, O.Triendl

Two names in classical music that you either won't have heard of - or else must allow yourself to be called a classical music geek - are Ludwig Thuille (1861 - 1907) and Joseph Marx. The first seems completely unpronounceable, which means writing about him is much easier than talking about him. Ludwig Wilhelm Andrä Maria Thuille was born in Bolzano when everyone still called it Bozen; a Tirolean. He became a student of Joseph Rheinberger in Munich and from age 16 on he was a good friend of the then 13-year-old Richard Strauss. If the mutual enthusiasm for music, exchanges (and disagreements) about Wagner, and musical comparisons they shared were actually beneficial for Ludwig Thuille can be doubted. Promising though he began his career, the ascendance of a musical genius (Strauss) so close to him, and his junior at that, might well have contributed to the lack of confidence with which Thuille continued his composer's career.

Eckhart van den Hoogen's splendidly witty and informative liner notes that come with CPO's recording of the two Piano Quintets remark dryly: "A heart attack put an early end to his life: Scarcely two months after his 45th birthday on November 30th 1906 Ludwig Thuille is no more." It is easy to lament the premature death and theorize what might have been... but given how Thuille's creative output had stalled not long after he had finished his second Piano Quintet op.20 in 1901 the answer is: probably nothing much. That, too, is sad - and sadder still when listening to these two works. When they were composed, they might have uncomfortably straddled conservatism and modernism. Rheinberger's influence and restraint can be heard in the first work (1880, WoO in G-minor) - Alexander Ritter's modern influence of the "Munich School" (R.Strauss, von Schillings) appears in the E-flat major work that Thuille started nearly 20 years later.

Our modern ears can easily dispense with the rivaling musical philosophies at the time and let the Quintets impress upon us without prejudice. And impress they do. And the more I listen to them, the more I find them indispensable to my chamber music collection. Indeed, Thuille's works - especially the earlier Quintet with its natural flow, the beauty of innocence, perhaps naïvete - sound like quintessential chamber music. Romantically infused in its irrepressible energy in the first movement, romantically wallowing in its moving Larghetto it stands, hitherto undiscovered by these ears, as music that seems as though it had always been around. Perhaps that is what others find to be Thuille's "timeless" quality? I listen to it and I feel as though it were as natural and inimically a part of chamber music as any great work of Brahms or the Trios of Schumann. Except with that gentle idiomatic tinge that betrays its later date of composition.

Trying harder, but not less successfully so, the second Quintet is harmonically a significant (if ultimately hesitant) step toward the sound-world of Richard Strauss. But craftsmanship combined with a talent for melody and fine phrases make this, too, a work that strikes all the more as a marvel as it greets us so confidently out of relative or even complete obscurity. If the chamber-musical output from Rheinberger to Reger and from Brahms to Richard Strauss is your cup of tea, there is little sense in even trying to resist these works that are so splendidly performed by pianist Oliver Triendl and the Vogler Quartett who put plenty of wit, wistfulness, and warmth into these highly recommendable recordings.

1 comment:

rhapsody407 said...

Thanks alot, I'll definitely order this. cpo does a lot of good work exposing these little-known composers.