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  Classical Editor: Rob Barnett  
Founder Len Mullenger   


Brilliant Classics 

Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
Complete works for Violin and Piano

Sonatina in A Minor, D. 385 (Op. 137, No. 2) (1816)
Sonatina in D Major, D. 384 (Op. 137, No. 1) (1816)
Sonatina in G Minor, D. 408 (Op. 137, No. 3) (1816)
Sonata ('Duo') in A Major, D. 574 (Op. 162)
Rondo ('Rondo brillant') in B Minor, D. 895 (Op. 70) (1826)
Fantasy in C Major, D. 934 (Op. 159) (1827)
Jaime Laredo (violin)
Stephanie Brown (piano)
Recording: September 1989, Troy Savings Bank Music Hall in Troy, NY
BRILLIANT CLASSICS 92275 [2 CDs 53.54 + 65.57]

Those looking for a complete set of Schubert’s works for violin and piano can be assured of variety, particularly from patrician fiddlers. Recorded late in his career Isaac Stern left a box with Barenboim on Sony, as did – rather more recommendably – Szymon Goldberg with Radu Lupu (Decca). And now here comes this ex-Dorian project, licensed to Brilliant Classics, which pairs Jaime Laredo with Stephanie Brown; salutary to be reminded that this set is already fifteen years old.

I once saw an American criticism of Laredo’s playing here, characterised as aggressive and lacking in subtlety. I have to say it’s not a view I share to any appreciable degree, though in this repertoire I would, it’s true, turn first to Grumiaux (in the Sonatina and the Duo with Castagnone or the remakes with Crossley, if you can find the latter that is) or to the elderly but still affecting Goldberg. Laredo and Brown adopt a relaxed tempo in much of their playing, not least the Allegro molto of D384 but the balance between instruments is good and they are both attuned in matters of sensibility to the works’ lyrical simplicity. Laredo is perhaps guilty of over-sophisticated phrasing in the Andante of the D major, accenting and highlighting phrases in the finale just a touch too much as well. But the A minor is bold and forthright and if there’s a suspicion of harshness it’s ameliorated by the sedate and hymnal delicacy of their slow movement. If aggressive attack is a fault perhaps one can find a little in the roughness in Laredo’s forte attacks in the G minor but the Minuetto is nicely buoyant and the finale is good if rather sedate.

They meet the challenges of the Duo with discreet expressivity though there are one or two moments when Laredo is just a touch too distantly balanced and the accompanying figures tend to lose their potency but his colouration in the Andantino is impressive. The Fantasy is an exceptionally difficult work to gauge successfully – its mood, the balance between instruments and the sense of narrative can all cause insurmountable and sometimes almost immediate problems if not realised with the most acute perception. The Laredo-Brown partnership can’t quite probe the more intimate and refined moments as can the Goldberg-Lupu duo but theirs is otherwise an attractive reading as is their bristly and concertante Rondo – one of Schubert’s most unbuttoned and swaggering works in the genre.

There are brief but cogent notes from Dennis Rooney and if you will doubtless find rather greater rewards with some of the other partnerships I’ve mentioned, I do think Laredo and Brown more than worth a listen. It’s good to see their set reissued in this inexpensive and musicianly box.

Jonathan Woolf

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