MusicWeb International One of the most grown-up review sites around 2024
60,000 reviews
... and still writing ...

Search MusicWeb Here Acte Prealable Polish CDs

Presto Music CD retailer
Founder: Len Mullenger                                    Editor in Chief:John Quinn             




Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
Violin Sonata No. 1 in G Op. 78 (1879) [27.27]
Violin Sonata No 2 in A, Op. 100 (1886) [21.58]
Violin Sonata No. 3 in D minor, Op. 108 (1888) [21.41]
Frank Almond (violin)
William Wolfram (piano)
No Recording details

Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
Violin Sonata No. 1 in G Op. 78 (1879) [27.55]
Violin Sonata No 2 in A, Op. 100 (1886) [19.58]
Violin Sonata No. 3 in D minor, Op. 108 (1888) [21.10]
Tobias Ringborg (violin)
Anders Kilström (piano)
rec. Studio Theatre of Stockholm University College of Opera, August 2005
STERLING CDA 1651-2 [67.16]
Error processing SSI file

This brace of Brahms Sonata discs shows the difference between a thoroughly competent reading and one versed in the art of making things happen. Almond and Wolfram start with the disadvantage of a very clangorous acoustic. It has the effect sometimes of making the piano too loud and the violin too quiet. But they are experienced chamber players and form part of a wider and like-minded group, An die Musik, whose praises I have sung here before now.

In the Op.108 Sonata, and despite Wolfram’s often very assertive chording, things can get rather muted and the passagework becalmed. Almond has a rather thin tone and makes few obviously expressive gestures. This pays dividends if you want a regretful rather than a passionately controlled slow movement but tension flags elsewhere, even in the Scherzo. The Op.78 Sonata is pretty similar; the first movement pizzicato doesn’t really sound, and some of the phrasing in this work is deadpan to the point of unimaginative. Things seem slower than they actually are because of a certain rhythmic lassitude and lack of sharp corners. In Op.100 they take too much of a moderato approach to the Allegro amabile opening and throughout – even the very slowly taken central movement – they are paragraphal and not nearly colourful enough tonally.

The Ringborg-Kilström team make a much better impression. Ringborg, whose approach to Roman’s solo violin works, the Assaggi, was so successful – see my review - is an adept player, though he should fight a tendency to swelling tone. He has a fast-ish vibrato and approaches Op.108 with a certain soloistic panache. Whilst the acoustic isn’t especially warm or overtly attractive – it’s distinctly chilly and encourages tonal shrillness – he and Kilström take the same basic tempo as Almond and Wolfram but they sound consistently fleeter and more engaging; their reflexes are faster, their tones full of greater colour, and the violinist isn’t afraid to voice some attractive expressive touches In Op.100 they’re attractively subtle and though Ringborg sets off at slightly too fast a tempo in the central movement he soon settles down. Op.78 shows renewed superiority to the American pair with a greater availability of just those components that make music of this kind live – colour, rhythm, metrical effects.

I wouldn’t care to rank the Ringborg-Kilström team in a field so wide. I would say that the recordings of Suk-Katchen, Grumiaux-Hajdu and Goldberg-Balsam are near the top, should there be a Discographic Parnassus. Of individual historical Sonata performances, Szigeti-Petri for their expressive power in No.3 and Heifetz as an exemplar of Darwinism in action in No.2 (to the point of ruthlessness).

Jonathan Woolf



Return to Index

Error processing SSI file