Robert Fuchs

Austrian composer Robert Fuchs was one of the last of the great romantic composers and his life spanned the period from the death of Felix Mendelssohn in 1847 to the composition of Irving Berlin’s Broadway song ‘Blue Skies’ in 1927. Fuchs was a great friend of Johannes Brahms but was completely overshadowed by the genius of his friend and, although much of his music has survived to the present day, particularly his string serenades and chamber music, he is still primarily remembered as the teacher of more famous composers such as George Enescu, Leo Fall, Erich Korngold, Gustav Mahler, Franz Schmidt, Franz Schrecker, Jean Sibelius, Hugo Wolf and Alexander von Zemlinsky.

Robert Fuchs was born in Frauental an der Laßnitz (Styria, Austria) in 1847, the youngest of thirteen children, and studied at the Vienna Conservatory with Felix Otto Dessoff and Joseph Hellmesberger amongst others. He eventually secured a teaching position there and was appointed Professor of music theory in 1875, a position he held until 1912. He was a prolific composer and was highly regarded during his lifetime but apparently did little to promote his own music, preferring a quiet life in Vienna. He had many admirers, Brahms amongst the most positive, and this from a composer who rarely praised others: ‘Fuchs is a sterling musician; everything is so polished and skilful, so charmingly invented! One is invariably delighted!’ Famous conductors of the day, including Arthur Nikisch, Felix Weingartner and Hans Richter, also championed his orchestral works but his chamber music was considered his finest work. Robert Fuchs died in Vienna in 1927 at the age of eighty.

Fuchs composed in most genres producing a varied and impressive worklist which includes three symphonies, operas, choral works, a wealth of chamber music and works for piano, organ and harp. Most of his chamber music was for strings including six sonatas for violin and piano, one sonata for viola and piano, and two sonatas for cello and piano, alongside string duos, trios and quartets. More importantly for double bassists are his Op.96 and 97, both for double bass and piano.

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