The Strad Issue: January 2010
Musicians: Lochrian Ensemble of London
Composer: Andrae

The most profound problem facing any young composer emerging at the beginning of the 20th century was developing a personal voice during a period of constant flux. A number of composers hit upon a fluid style based on Brahmsian structural rigour, strongly flavoured by a combination of Wagnerian chromaticism and folkdance lyricism. Frank Bridge was the leading figure of this kind in Britain, and in Switzerland it was Volkmar Andrae (1879–1962). His striking independence of creative voice has become a special passion for the Lochrian Ensemble, first in an outstanding coupling of the two piano trios released in 2007, and now in this alluring programme, glowingly played and engineered, that confirms Andrae as a master of his craft.

Composers far more renowned than Andrae have come unstuck with the string quartet medium, but the Swiss maestro (he was also a gifted conductor) makes it sound effortless. This is at last in part due to the Lochrian Ensemble’s stunning advocacy, which combines lyricism of heartfelt intensity with an acute sensitivity to the music’s harmonic progress. The magical way the players of this gifted ensemble reduce their tone to a haunting whisper and then joyously erupt into the recapitulation of the First String Quartet’s opening movement is just one of many outstanding moments. Highly recommended.