My first introduction to the music of Paul Juon was through a Challenge Classics set of his music for piano trio (CHL 72002). This was a good ten or more years ago and while I couldn’t hum any of the tunes, I do recall clearly that I enjoyed the music immensely. So when this new cpo disc of Juon’s Piano Sextet Op. 22 in C minor and his Piano Quintet Op. 44 in F major came along, the shrink wrap came off really fast.
The music of Paul Juon (1872 – 1940) has been enjoying an increase in attention and reputation over the past few years. Most of what has been recorded has been his chamber music, which also makes up the bulk of his output. His music is easy to listen to - tonal and melodic with a Russian flair and clear romantic roots. His fellow student, Sergei Rachmaninov called him “the Russian Brahms”, and indeed, this is the composer that most comes to mind while listening to his music. Juon characterizes his own works as “rather harsh and of gloomy Nordic coloration… [with] influences from Russian folk music” which he loved very much. He had a predilection for irregular rhythms; even polyrhythmic passages occur. It’s both enjoyable and interesting to listen to.
The performances on this cpo CD are by the Carmina Quartett with pianist Oliver Triendl and the second cello part of the sextet played by Thomas Grossenbacher. I couldn’t find a sample of the works on this CD to ‘You-Tube’ for you, however, here’s his Sextet for Piano and Winds, which gives a good idea of what his music sounds like.
“The missing link between Tchaikovsky and Stravinsky” – it was thus that a contemporary critic once described the composer Paul Juon, the scion of a Swiss family resident in Moscow who earned an outstanding conservatory diploma in Russia before going to Berlin in 1894 to study with Clara Schumann’s half-brother Waldemar Bargiel. The highly discriminating Joseph Joachim later appointed Juon to a full professorship at the Berlin College of Music in 1907. Paul Juon’s domains included orchestral works, piano compositions, and vocal music as well as chamber music. Following the release of his piano quartets (cpo 777 278-2 / 278752491), we are now presenting to you his quintet and sextet, both also with piano. Juon occupied himself with the piano throughout his creative life, and he himself was an outstanding pianist who often performed his own works. The two works recorded here are obliged to Brahms and Chopin and of course to the Russian tradition. They are distinguished by bold harmonies and unusual or irregular rhythms. Polyrhythmic passages are also in evidence. It would also certainly not be incorrect to count Juon among the important innovators in the field of rhythm inasmuch as he anticipated developments for which Stravinsky, Blacher, and Messiaen would later become famous.
Paul Juon (March 6, 1872 – August 21, 1940) was a Germanised Russian composer. His works include sonatas for viola, cello, winds, and three for violin (the third was recorded on a multi-LP set called… read more
Carmina String Quartet
Performers: Carmina Quartet
Big musical intensity, natural perfection and a keen interest in stylistic faithfulness mark established in 1984 in Switzerland, Carmina Quartet. Early success ensured spectacular competition for headlines… read more
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