ClassicsOnline Home » FUCHS, L.: Complete Music for Unaccompanied Viola
By Patricia Pollett
Lillian Fuchs (1902-1995) was a major force on the viola in the United States in the second half of last century, performing as a solo and chamber musician, then teaching and composing for her instrument. Hailing from a musical family, it was for Lillian and her brother the violinist Joseph Fuchs that Martinu wrote his Madrigals.
Perhaps it is as a pedagogue that she will be most remembered. Teaching at Juilliard and the Manhattan Scholl of Music, a generation of viola players in the United States have been greatly influenced by her teaching. She composed three sets of etudes and caprices in response to the lack of technical repertoire available to violists, who mostly use studies transcribed from the violin. This recording on the Naxos label of her complete etudes and caprices, along with the solo sonata, is by her granddaughter Jeanne Mallow using fuchs’ own Gasparo da Salo viola.
Mallow plays with authority. Her strong, well-focused tone is used to good effect. I enjoyed her instinctive sens of flow, allowing her rather free rubato to feel natural and balanced. It si clear that she has the measure of her grandmother’s works, both musically and certainly technically. The playing is clean, confident and masterly throughout.
Listening to two discs of studies is a rather daunting phenomenon. The three etude volumes are progressive in difficulty and designed for the lower viola range. For the student, it’s obviously an excellent resource. For the listener, the works provide uneven musical interest, with mundane technical legwork alongside the more substantial Sonata Pastorale.