Chamber music of Ludwig Thuille
Piano Quintet in E flat, opus 20
Piano Quintet in G minor
The Falk Quartet with Tomer Lev (piano)

TPT: 01:05:17
Sanctuary Classics DCA 1171

reviewed by Neville Cohn 

If Austrian composer Ludwig Thuille is one of music’s largely forgotten men, the Falk Quartet and pianist Tomer Lev ensure through this CD that his existence – and his work – will become known to listeners eager to explore some of music’s hitherto overgrown byways.

Thuille, whose most famous pupil was Ernest Bloch, died in 1907. An industrious man, he produced, inter alia, six operas and almost 100 songs – and some chamber music which thoroughly deserves a recall from obscurity.

Whilst it would be an exaggeration to suggest that Thuille’s is a strikingly original voice – much of the material on this disc seems strongly influenced by Schumann – the first movement of the Quintet opus 20 is engagingly accessible, music of unabashed romanticism.

It’s the sort of score I’d imagine Arthur Rubinstein would have loved coming to grips with. And if it would be an exaggeration to suggest this is great music – it isn’t – it certainly warrants a place in the repertoire, not least for
that sense of ardour which informs a good deal of the writing. True, the E flat quintet melodies are not particularly memorable, lacking the thematic magic of the quintets of Schumann and Brahms but Thuille uses his material skilfully.

Even if the music doesn’t scale the peaks one associates with, say, Dvorak in his Piano Quintet, Thuille’s work certainly has a place on the lower slopes of those Everests one associates with Schumann, Brahms and Dvorak.

Pianist Tomer Lev is in excellent fettle here, notably in the introduction to the slow movement in which the Flak musicians later join the pianist and sound in their element in the rather melodramatic, handwringing flourishes played as if their lives depended on it. They are no less persuasive in the robust, darkly demonic waltz that is the third movement. Piano tone is exceptionally fine in the finale – and even if the themes lack distinction, the ensemble, to its credit, presents the music with such skill and verve that for the duration of the movement, the piece sounds significantly better than it really is, and that is no mean achievement. In fact, the presentation is so persuasive that it whets the appetite for more of Thuille’s music.

Copyright 2005 Neville Cohn

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