In 2003, I was asked by Simon Wynberg, the music director of the ARC Ensemble (Artists of the Royal Conservatory) to perform Robert Fuchs’ “Double Bass Sonata op.97” in a program entitled “Brothers in Brahms.” I had never heard of Fuchs or his sonata, but I was impressed to learn his students included Mahler, Sibelius and Korngold and that his friend Johannes Brahms had this to say about him: “Fuchs is a splendid musician. Everything is so refined, so skilled, so delightfully inventive, we can always take pleasure in what we hear.”
I became rather smitten by this unjustly neglected work and I started planning the best way to present it in a recording. It occurred to me to just steal Simon’s idea, so you are now reading the liner notes for that bit of inspiration.
The Fuchs Sonata is a three-movement composition: Allegro moderato molto, Allegro scherzando and Allegro giusto, all fast movements. For this recording, I have chosen to include the “Andante,” from his “Three Pieces for Contrabass and Piano op.96,” as a slow third movement.
I first heard Johannes Brahms’ “Violin Sonata #1 op.78” when I was a student. Its beauty made a deep impression on me and I vowed that someday I would also play this sonata. In my opinion, this music is all about making the instrument sing, and it is a moot point (at least to me) if it is an octave or two lower than usual. This transcription is my own and I followed some of the differences in the version that exists for cello and piano. So, how can I justify this extreme bit of transcribing impudence? Well, the fact that Brahms’ father was a bass player is very well known to bass players and a real source of bass pride. Brahms’ orchestral double bass parts are so thoughtfully written and considerate in their demands but still the most gratifying to play on account of their foundational richness. Surely he crafted these exquisite bass lines with his dear papa in mind; surely he would not have objected if papa had shown some interest in playing his violin sonata?
On a more serious note, this work is one that was particularly close to Brahms’ heart; when performing it in a circle of friends, he was often overcome by emotion and had to take breaks between the movements. It was a favorite of Clara Schumann’s and after a performance with their great violinist friend Joseph Joachim, she wrote, “I reveled in it once more and I wish the last movement would accompany me in my journey to the next world.”
Brahms did perform it at Clara’s burial ceremony in 1896. And, of course, the Schumanns had occupied a most pivotal place in the life of Brahms. So, I am very happy to present Robert Schumann’s gorgeous “Adagio and Allegro” again in my own transcription. Originally written for French horn, I have moved it from A flat to C major.
I would like to thank the following individuals who have helped in the creation of this recording; Jean Desmarais, Travis Harrison, Chris Jackson, Nicholas Jennings, Carole Sirois, Scott Thornle, Silvio Dalla Torre, Colin Traquair, Nicholas Walker, JeffWolpert, Simon Wynberg. and in particular, my life long friend Roberto Occhipinti.
This recording is dedicated to my wife, Carole Sirois.
courtesy of Mennonite Library and Archives, Bethel College, North Newton, Kansas
the Glenn Gould Studio, Toronto, Canada
March 4th and 5th, 2013
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