S0681. JOSEPH FUCHS: Partita #2 in d for violin unaccompanied (Bach); w.Joseph Villa (Pf.): Sonata in D - Andante cantabile, K.306; Sonata in A, K.526 (both Mozart), Sonata #3 in d (Brahms); Encores by Gluck, Bassini, Kreutzer, Mendelssohn, Ravel & Ernst, each with Fuchs' spoken introduction. (Canada) 2-St Laurent Studio YSL T-328, Live Performance, 8 Jan., 1972, Washington Irving High School Auditorium, New York, [in an exceptionally warm acoustic, this is truly an 'occasion' with a notably quiet and informed audience, exuding a charming 'gemütlichkeit'!] Transfers by Yves St Laurent.
“It was unfortunate for Fuchs that he played at a time when active violinists included Heifetz, Kreisler, Elman, Milstein, Stern, Oistrakh, Kogan, Francescatti, and a great many others. Fuchs may have lacked the flash and charisma of some of his contemporaries, and he also spent 14 years as concertmaster of the Cleveland Orchestra (1926-1940) before truly pursuing a solo career. And he also devoted much of his time to teaching at the Juilliard School. For all of those reasons, he never achieved the popularity among general audiences of a number of his contemporaries. But he was greatly admired by his peers, by professional musicians of all stripes. He also was an advocate for new music, much more so than many of his colleagues, commissioning and premiering works throughout his career.
After leaving the Cleveland Orchestra he was first violinist of the Primrose Quartet (Josef Gingold, William Primrose, and Harvey Shapiro being the remaining players) from 1941-43, made a solo début in Carnegie Hall in 1943, and began touring Europe, Asia, and the U.S. extensively.
Fuchs played well, even in his late years. He was born in 1899, so both of these recitals were given when he was in his early seventies. Both show him with undiminished technical skills and with great imagination in a huge range of repertoire. The biggest problem with both recordings is a balance that favors the piano, and places the violin somewhat in the background. This is particularly unfortunate in the encore pieces from the Washington Irving recital, many of which really should highlight the violin more than is the case here. Nonetheless, these two sets are extremely valuable. They document the playing one of the important violinists of the twentieth century, caught in actual performances that demonstrate the breadth of his musical sensibilities. A highlight is the Chausson, sometimes called Concert for Violin, Piano, and String Quartet, and sometimes (including here) Concerto….the work is one of Chausson’s masterpieces, and this performance brilliantly captures its unique blend of late romanticism and impressionism. The audience is so enthusiastic that the performers repeat the ‘Scilienne’ from the Concert as an encore. This piece can seem shapeless in some performances, but here it has spine and firmness in equal proportion with a perfumed atmosphere.
One of Fuchs’ strengths is his sense of proportion and architecture. Messiaen’s ‘Theme and Variations’ is always headed somewhere, connections between the variations made very clear, and Bartók’s Second Sonata maintains both its gypsy elements and its structure. In comparing the two performances of Mozart’s A Major Sonata, the fact of different pianists seems to make little difference—Fuchs’ rhythmically vital performances are very similar.
In the more virtuosic encore pieces on Volume 2, we hear that Fuchs also has a sense of humor. You can feel him smiling, even chuckling, in Heinrich Ernst’s ‘Rondo Papageno’. Fuchs also announces each of the encores, and in the most demanding of them his technique is clearly intact.
I heard Fuchs play in concert, and have heard studio recordings of his, and the one problem here is that the issue of recorded balance does not do justice to his tone, which even in the early 1970s was still richer than what comes across these discs. But we should still be grateful for their existence, because they document one of the masters of the violin of the middle and late 20th century in performance, and lovers of the instrument will surely want to obtain these. If you were interested in obtaining one to get a better idea of his playing, I would recommend Volume 1, because of the uniquely beautiful recording of the Chausson, and the rarely heard Messiaen.
As is usual with Saint Laurent Studios, the quality of the transfers is superb, and there are no program notes. These are available at Norbeck, Peters & Ford.”
- Henry Fogel, FANFARE
“Joseph Fuchs, an American violinist long acclaimed for his vigorous, intelligent and technically assured performances of old and new music and for the quality of his teaching, was one of those select musicians admired as much by his peers as by audiences. He played not only the standard repertory but also works by such contemporaries as Stravinsky, Thomson and Hindemith. He pioneered in the performance of music by Ben Weber, Nikolai Lopatnikoff and Walter Piston. [A Ford Foundation grant in 1960 enabled him to commission Walter Piston’s Violin Concerto, the première of which he gave that year in Pittsburgh. Fuchs also gave the first performances of concertos by Lopatnikoff (1944–5), Ben Weber (1954) and Mario Peragallo (1955); of Martin’s Madrigal for violin and viola, dedicated to Fuchs and his sister Lillian (1947); of the revised version of Vaughan Williams’s Violin Sonata, with Artur Balsam (1969), and of the posthumous American première of Martin’s Sonata for two violins and piano (1974).]
‘Joseph Fuchs is the kind of violinist who makes you listen not to himself but to the music, and there is no higher compliment you can pay an artist’, Raymond Ericson wrote in THE NEW YORK TIMES after a 1960 recital at Town Hall.
Joseph Fuchs studied with the noted Franz Kneisel at the Institute of Musical Art, now the Juilliard School, and graduated in 1918. He gave his New York début recital in 1920 at Aeolian Hall. In 1926 Mr. Fuchs was appointed concertmaster of the Cleveland Orchestra, a post he held until 1940. After Cleveland, he resumed his solo career. He gave his last recital, at Carnegie Hall, in 1992 and his last public performance, at the Juilliard School, in 1995 [at age 95].
He often appeared in concert with his sister, Lillian Fuchs, a violist. Mr. Fuchs also collaborated regularly with the pianist Artur Balsam and the cellist Leonard Rose. Mr. Fuchs was a founding member of the Musicians Guild, a chamber music organization that presented many concerts during the 1940s and ‘50s. A true upholder of the Kneisel tradition, he called chamber music his 'true love’. He became a professor of violin at the Juilliard School in 1946 and held the position until his death. He was a founder of the Blue Hill Music School in Maine in 1953, a summer program that evolved into the Summer Chamber Music Institute at Alfred University in Alfred, N.Y.
Mr. Fuchs made many recordings, including one of the first complete sets of the Beethoven violin sonatas, with Balsam in 1952. He also recorded Mozart's works for violin and viola, the duos and the Sinfonia Concertante, with his sister…vivid testimonials to his artistry. [He played the ‘Cádiz Stradivarius’ violin of 1722].”
- THE NEW YORK TIMES, 17 March, 1997
“Each of these disks, from Canadian engineer Yves St Laurent… [feature] St Laurent's natural transfer – made without filtering, like all his dubbings – it is easy to listen to, despite the surface noise.”
- Tully Potter, CLASSICAL RECORD QUARTERLY, Summer, 2011