Aureole etc.

Golden Age singers

Nimbus on-line

Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
Violin Sonata No. 1 in G major, Opus 78 (1879)
Violin Sonata No. 2 in A major, Opus 100 (1886)
Violin Sonata No. 3 in D minor, Opus 108 (1888)
Marat Bisengaliev (violin)
Sir Ernest Hall (piano))
Rec 7-8 March 1999, Gateway Studio
BLACK BOX BBM 1010 [68.09]
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The three Brahms sonatas for violin and piano are all the work of the mature composer, equally masterly, equally satisfying, but different in personality and outlook.

The G major Sonata, composed towards the end of the 1870s, is exactly contemporary with Brahms's Violin Concerto. In both works the composer was paying a sincere tribute to his performer friend Joseph Joachim, and the natural lyricism of the music is a reflection of the nature of the violin itself. Indeed the balance between the two instruments is particularly successful, while much of the melodic material reveals that the work is the creation of an experienced song composer.

The performance of Marat Bisengaliev and Sir Ernest Hall responds well to these admirable characteristics, confirming (as in the other sonatas too) that the violin is the most lyrical of instruments, and that Brahms was a master of the piano too. This makes for a compelling combination, and these are masterworks to be sure. On hearing these performances these strengths are abundantly clear, which is praise enough.

While there may be performances by famous violinists and duo combinations which wring even greater individuality from the music, there is no need to cavil in respect of what Black Box offers here. The G major Sonata is among the composer's most sunny and lyrical creations, and with such well judged tempi and sensitive phrasing this is particularly enjoyable.

The other sonatas are equally inspired, and in the case of Opus 100, equally song-like. These characteristics are immediately apparent, since the opening gesture so strongly resembles the Prize Song from Wagner's Mastersingers. But the theme which evolves from it is genuinely Brahmsian, with abundant warmth and an expressive strength which is founded upon the balance between the two instruments. The arts combine most effectively to communicate these features of this appealing and warm composition, aided by a sensitive recorded ambience.

The third and last Sonata, composed towards the end of the 1880s, is a darker and more complex piece. Dedicated to the pianist and conductor Hans von Bülow, it is somewhat larger in scale than its two predecessors, largely because it contains an additional movement. The music has a natural lyricism which reflects upon the nature of the violin itself. Indeed the balance between the two instruments is particularly successful, while much of the melodic material reveals once again that the music is the creation of an experienced song composer.

The greater expressive intensity of this Sonata is immediately apparent, since the work opens with a sotto voce (whispered) passage, whose very restraint invites the release of more tempestuous emotions. Again the artists respond imaginatively, although in this piece there is greater intensity to be found in the performances of leading combinations such as Itzhak Perlman and Daniel Barenboim (Sony) or Kyung-Wha Chung and Peter Frankl (EMI). But make no mistake; this is great music, and therefore always greater than any single performance can offer. With excellent insert notes by Martin Anderson and clear, reliable sound, this Black Box issue can be recommended with confidence and enthusiasm.

Terry Barfoot


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