Classical home listening: Bruch, Prokofiev and Schumann

The Nash Ensemble are the ideal advocates for Bruch’s chamber music; and violist Timothy Ridout takes on an entire ballet and song cycle

The Nash Ensemble Bruch

• His Violin Concerto No 1 in G minor and the Scottish Fantasy aside, does Max Bruch deserve to be so sorely neglected? It may not be a question to lose sleep over, but let these five elite chamber musicians convert you to the cause. Bruch: String Quartet No 2, Romance, Op 85, Four Pieces, Op 70 and Piano Trio in C minor, Op 5 (Hyperion) is played by members of the Nash Ensemble: Stephanie Gonley and Jonathan Stone (violins), Lawrence Power (viola), Adrian Brendel (cello) and Simon Crawford-Phillips (piano). It follows a Hyperion disc, also from the Nash, of his Octet and Quintets. You won’t find better advocates.

The early Piano Trio is attractive if inconsequential, but the Second String Quartet soars with high-powered lyricism, spilling into the soundworlds of Mendelssohn and Brahms. The Four Pieces for cello and piano make inventive use of folk material – Finnish, Scottish, Swedish – while the melancholy Romance for viola is a plum, slightly better known in its orchestral version, but here gloriously played by Power and Crawford-Phillips.

Timothy Ridout and Frank Dupree A Poet’s Love

• Viola players, with limited repertoire of their own, are great plunderers and borrowers. On A Poet’s Love (Harmonia Mundi), the young virtuoso Timothy Ridout has digested an orchestral score and an entire song cycle and recreated them via hands, bow and viola – helped by his equally skilled duo partner, the German pianist Frank Dupree. Excerpts from Prokofiev’s ballet Romeo and Juliet, Op 64, arranged by the great violist Vadim Borisovsky (1900-72), sound so convincing it’s easy to forget that Prokofiev expected a large orchestra complete with six horns, tuba and an army of percussion. The weighty Dance of the Knights, the skittering Mercutio scherzo, the heartfelt balcony scene and the spare sobriety of the death scene: each has the variety of the original, differently cast, in new timbres, but just as powerful.

Ridout has made his own, highly effective arrangement of Schumann’s song cycle from 1840, Dichterliebe (A Poet’s Love). At times he uses the viola’s flowing, higher register. Yet in a song such as Im Rhein, im heiligen Strome, with its grand aural depiction of Cologne Cathedral, he exploits the instrument’s baritonal qualities, always making the viola sing.

• Tomorrow night at the BBC Proms: the dazzling South African cellist Abel Selaocoe explores the parallels between African rhythms and music of the European baroque, with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, conductor Clark Rundell. BBC Radio 3, 7pm.

Contributor

Fiona Maddocks

The GuardianTramp

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