Octet in B flat Major, Op.27 for Piano, Violin,
Viola, Cello, Oboe, Clarinet, Bassoon & Horn
Paul Juon (1872-1940) was the son of Swiss parents who emigrated to Moscow where he was born. Educated at the Moscow German High School, he entered the Moscow Conservatory where he studied violin with Jan Hrimaly and composition with Anton Arensky and Sergei Taneyev. After graduating, he went to Berlin for further composition instruction from Woldemar Bargiel . In 1906, after holding various posts in Russia, Juon was invited by Joseph Joachim, head of the prestigious Berlin Hochschule für Musik, to become a of Professor of Composition, a post which he held until 1934 when he returned to Switzerland, where lived for the rest of his life.
Juon was widely regarded as a first rate composer and his works were given frequent performance throughout Europe during his lifetime. Chamber music plays a large part of his output which numbers more than 100 works.
The Octet dates from 1905. In this work, Juon has for the most part left his Russian heritage behind and out of the music. From the opening bars of the first movement, Allegro non troppo, we hear a composer who is truly pioneering a new path. It has been said that Juon is the missing link between Brahms and Stravinsky. And if that is so, this movement is a good example why that has been said. The themes are entirely tonal and yet there is a modern sense to the music, Juon has left even post-Brahmsian romanticism behind and is inching toward a light, neo-classical, almost French sound. The second movement, Andante elegiaco, begins with a lovely cello solo. It is sad sounding, yearning at times, but not tragic. As the others join in one at a time, the mood stays the same, reflective and muted in emotion. The marvelous third movement, Allegro non troppo quasi moderato, is full of restless energy, created by the running notes in the piano, but it does not have the feel of a real scherzo. The main theme is vaguely oriental. The finale, Moderato, begins with a stately introduction of the theme by the piano alone. While the piano maintains the dignity of the music, the other parts are expertly woven around it producing marvelous episodes of rich and unusual tone coloring.
We are pleased to reintroduce this outstanding work, long unavailable, which is also historically significant. It is a concert piece that can be enjoyed by amateurs as well.