Barchet Chamber Works Hänssler Classic

Déjà Review: this review was first published in April 2003 and the recording is still available.

Siegfried Barchet (1918-1982)
Cellist and Composer
Hänssler Classic CD98.132
 [3 CDs: 203]

For more than thirty years Siegfried Barchet was solo cellist in the Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra, city of his birth in 1918. He and his younger brother, Reinhold, probably now the better known of the two, began to give concerts in their teens and together went to the Würtzburg State Conservatory in 1937. Siegfried had actually taken composition lessons since the age of thirteen and these were decisively deepened by the Conservatory Director Hermann Zilcher. The War interrupted his career but he managed to play in Edwin Fischer’s Chamber orchestra and in 1943 he joined the Bruckner Orchestra in Linz under Eugen’s brother Georg Ludwig Jochum. Later still he joined the Stuttgart orchestra – once more joining his brother who became leader. Some people will remember the Barchet Quartet recordings of the 1950s – fine ones as well – but increasing pressures on time led Reinhold to relinquish his place in the Stuttgart orchestra and venture further afield – Siegfried remained.

Barchet was a performer-composer and wrote a large amount of chamber works and pieces for wind, the last of his compositions dating from 1978, four years before his death. His arrangements, orchestrations and cadenzas were also extensive and useful performance material. Though Hänssler’s notes speak of Zilcher’s compositional influence as being in respect of romantic and impressionistic styles what emerges very clearly from Barchet’s compositions is the essential neo-classicism of his style – as well as a penchant for the lyrical-introspective potential of the suite.

The notes are almost entirely biographical so we are not given help as to the nature of the influences upon or direction of Barchet’s music. He certainly began in a spirit of academic promotion because a catalogue of works is included and the earlier works were assigned opus numbers – dating from 1936 when he was a youthful and ambitious eighteen year old until Werk 10b- two lied dated 1946. After the war he seems to have given up giving opus numbers and he wrote little from 1946 until 1963. Thenceforth there was a steady increase and an exploration of works for flute, horn, oboe and clarinet as well as string works generally.

The works recorded here date from that later period – I say recorded but there seems no indication as to whether these are actual discs or radio tapes or otherwise privately recorded (a number feature the composer-cellist himself). I hope some impressions will suffice to convey the sprit of Barchet’s works. The 1968 Sinfonie for string orchestra opens bleakly but develops a neo-classicist vivace; the writing is characteristically idiomatic, rhythms sprung and built on essentially baroque models with no canker or ironic displacements to shrivel the essentially optimistic tone. Into the scherzo (with a trio) – bright, colourful and short – Barchet interpolates a little solo for his own instrument. The finale is generously light hearted with its vague hints of a Weimar dance band. The Serenata, a two and a half minute pastiche is for 1st violin over throbbing pizzicati and the Introduction and Burleske has some genial, dancing strings, throwaway lyricism and a Falstaffian bassoon. His Images de Menton is for solo cello in a recording made by the composer himself of a piece written in 1963. This is explicitly Bachian, nodding perhaps to Barchet’s own hero, Casals, whom he visited in homage. Its impressions are frisky and ruminative, revelling in Gallic frolicking in the pizzicato laden and songful movement called Parvis Saint-Michel (a touch of the Charles Trenets about it and that’s no bad thing in my book). The final movement Dans les Jardins des Colombières has the scurrying simplicity of a children’s song. That romantic influence does manifest itself in the 1966 Five Miniatures where the opening movement is quite pastoral, though juxtaposed with more square jawed phrasing and the central one gracious and lyrical and once again aspiring to the condition of song (Barchet set a number of texts and was clearly an accomplished lieder composer – none are recorded here). The Allegretto of the 1970 Flute Quartet sounds a little frivolously sub-Waltonian (in Façade mode) but has a neo classicist lyricism that is attractive without being in any real sense compelling.

I liked the winsomeness of the Concertino, the slightly pensive air to its nostalgic slow movement and its cocksure jaunty finale. The cello morceaux are attractively played salon pieces but the String Trio is made of tougher stuff – lyrical but incipiently complex and very well written for the three instruments as befits a composer-insider. The Capriccio, the third movement of four (he adhered frequently to unpretentious baroque models) even threatens a fugato. Barchet was good at jolly, he was good at superior demotic, he was good at depth without becoming laden and he was good at little reveries, little moments of nostalgia all couched in an immediately approachable not especially difficult language dating essentially from the first third of the century. Of course there are moments, such as the rather crepuscular Melancholia from the Oboe Quartet when a darker note is struck but the finale of the same work banishes care with gracious fluency. Barchet was a fluent composer.

The third disc is taken up with his cellistic performances. We can appreciate the elegance of his Vivaldi (with Münchinger conducting), his mellow warm tone and controlled vibrato in the Grazioli, his tasteful playing in the Mozart and the nobility of his Bruch Canzonetta. In the Giesen accompanied pieces the sound is very much more constricted but the playing is attractive; he has a very enthusiastic pianist in Hans Priegnitz, who storms about in the second of the Bach Chorales.

The sound is very acceptable whatever the source material and the notes, as earlier indicted, essentially biographical but with helpful work lists and details of Barchet’s arrangements. Nothing world shattering here but Barchet doubtless knew that. In his own way he emerges as an affectionate and quietly humorous composer who discovered his language early and saw no reason to deviate from the models he so plainly loved. His interest in baroque performance coalesced with his absorption of neo-classicism as a compositional model. Full marks to Hänssler for giving life to this most attractive and expert craftsman.

Jonathan Woolf

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Sinfonie for strings (1968)
Serenata in modo classica (1964)
Introduction and Burleske (1968)
Images de Menton (1963)
Five Miniatures (1966)
Flute Quartet (1970)
Concertino (1973)
Quodlibet (1977)
Nonchalance (1945-60)
Nocturne (1945-60)
String Trio (1966)
Divertimento Op. 10a (1944)
Quartet (1973)
Antonio VIVALDI (1675-1741)
Suite for Cello and String Orchestra
Giovanni Battista GRAZIOLI (1755-1820)
Cello Sonata
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Bassoon Sonata K292
Max BRUCH (1838-1920)
Maurice RAVEL (1875-1937)
Pavane pour une infante defunte
Berceuse sur le nom de Fauré
Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1918)
Ariette oubliée
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Two Choral Preludes:
Ach was ist doch unser Leben
Christus der uns selig macht

Siegfried Barchet (cello) with Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra conducted by Karl Münchinger in Vivaldi, Margarete Scharitzer (cembalo) in Grazioli, Gerhard Haase (bassoon) in Mozart, Südfunk-Unterhaltungorchester conducted by Willy Mattes in Bruch, Hubert Giesen (piano) in Ravel and Debussy and Hans Priegnitz (piano) in Bach
Barchet’s own works; Badisches Kammerorcheter/Wolfgang Hock in the Sinfonie, Stuttgart String Quartet in the Serenata, Gerhard Haase (bassoon) Johannes Brüning (violin) Enrique Santiago (viola) and Siegfried Barchet (cello) in the Introduction and Burleske, Siegfried Barchet (cello) in Images de Menton, Stuttgart String Quartet in the Five Miniatures, Willy Freivogel (flute) with the String Trio of the Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra in the Flute Quartet, Hanspeter Weber (cor anglais) with Radio Orchestra Stuttgart/Willy Mattes in the Concertino, Willy Freivogel (flute) Sigurd
Michae (oboe) Rainer Schumacher (clarinet) Friedhelm Pütz (horn) and Hermann Herder (bassoon) in the Quodlibet, Siegfried Barchet (cello) and Edgar Trauer (piano) in Nonchalance and Nocturne, Johannes Brüning (violin) Enrique Santiago (viola) and Siegfried Barchet (cello) in the String Trio, Johannes Brüning (violin) Erika Ehrlinspiel-Beck (violin) and Hermann Voss (viola) in the Divertimento, Lajos Lencses (oboe) Jürgen Vlach (violin) Horst Strohfeldt (viola) and Gottfried Hahn (cello) in the Quartet for Oboe
No recording details