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Hans Koessler
String Quintet in D minor String Sextet in F minor

Frankfurter String Sextet

Charys Schuler Punto, Aisling O'Dea (violins) Ingrid Albert, Kerstin Huellemann (violas) Maja Storck (cello) Christiane Steppan (cello sextet)


CPO 777 269-2


This disc is for me an outstanding discovery. Hans Koessler (1853-1926) must be unknown even to specialist music lovers. He did himself no favours by being so disorganised - most of his compositions were literally lost. But in a very precise way, he is ‘the missing link'.

An admirer of Brahms, Koessler made his mark essentially as a theory teacher, and among his pupils were Dohnanyi, Kodaly and Bartok. And just as Brahms is something of an academic's composer, so Koessler writes rather as if he were a composer's academic.


The opening of the quintet (in fact, slightly the later work) is unmistakably Brahmsian, a clear cousin of Op 88 or 111. Koessler shows a deep understanding of Brahms' compositional technique – that is, long paragraphs that are linked by motivic affinities. These motifs persist across movements, although with subtle variations, and give each piece its unity. The first two movements of the quintet are especially pleasing, even though the finale is the most celebrated movement, and the one that most rises beyond pastiche.


The similarity of the scherzo to Wagner's Valkyrie theme is mentioned, but elsewhere, we hear echoes of Bruckner, Dvorak, and even, in the scherzo of the sextet, Mahler's St Anthony of Padua theme. Equally, Koessler manage to make the sextet sound early-Brahmsian, much as the quintet is later.


The performers are all members of the hr radio orchestra. They play with obvious affection for the music and impeccable ensemble. They are perhaps less attention-grabbing in the sextet, but the piece is arguably significantly less inventive.


You have to be a Brahms aficionado to love this disc, but if you are, it is a treasure. A personal ‘disc of the month' for me.


Ying Chang