Cumbria Times
A Voice of the Free Press
Andrew Palmer
Group Editor
1:00 AM 1st March 2024

Classical Music: Music In Exile Chamber Works By Robert Müller-Hartmann

Music in Exile
Chamber Works by Robert Müller-Hartmann

Sonata Op 5* – for violin and piano; Two Pieces for cello and piano; Sonata, Op. 32 for two violins; Three Intermezzi and Scherzo, Op. 22 for piano; String Quartet Nº 2, Op. 38.

ARC Ensemble – Erika Raum: violin*; Marie Bérard: violin; Steven Dann: viola; Thomas Wiebe: cello; Kevin Ahfat: piano.
* Premiere Recording
Chandos CHAN 20294

Robert Müller-Hartmann was born in Hamburg in 1884, the son of the piano teacher and clarinettist Josef Müller and his wife, Jenny. He studied in Berlin for four years but then returned to Hamburg, where he pursued a successful career combining teaching, composing, and writing.

The thirteen years Robert spent in England saw the country scarred by the losses, destruction, and privations of war. There was very little time or opportunity for him to secure a place in his adoptive country’s musical life, and despite his considerable success in Germany during the 1920s and ’30s, his reputation had failed to cross the English Channel. Simon Wynberg, Artistic Director, ARC Ensemble, provides context in his interesting notes.

This recording of his lovely chamber works performed by the Tronto-based ARC Ensemble originated before his exile to England. The group performs with sensitivity and intense beauty. The phrasing and articulation are superbly observed. 

ARC cellist Thomas Wiebe’s account of The Two Pieces for Cello and Piano is particularly haunting, accompanied sensitively by Kevin Ahfat.

Erika Raum provides a lovely, spirited account of the Sonata No 5 and joins Marie Bérard for a resonant interpretation of the Sonata for Two Violins, capturing the different moods. Excellent articulation throughout.

The Three Intermezzi and Scherzo are delightful and highlight Kevin Ahfat’s skill not only as a accompanist but also as a talented soloist.

The disc ends with a moving performance of String Quartet No. 2, Op. 38, a piece that surprises throughout. The adagio is ethereal, and the controlled tension has an exquisiteness about it that ensures the listener feels the significance of the Music in Exile label. Three minutes of loveliness just disappear, as does the conclusion of the poignant last movement. It’s a work that deserves greater recognition.

Emotive music is played with passion and conviction.