One of the most grown-up review sites around

54,416 reviews
and more.. and still writing ...

Search MusicWeb Here



International mailing

Founder: Len Mullenger                                    Editor in Chief:John Quinn             


Some items
to consider


paid for


100th birthday of Mieczyslaw Weinberg on December 8, 2019.
Renate Eggbrecht has recorded all 3 violin Sonatas

FOGHORN Classics

Mozart Brahms
Clarinet Quintets

New Releases

Naxos Classical

Click to see New Releases
Get 10% off using code musicweb10

Nimbus Podcast

Obtain 10% discount

Special offer 50% off
15CDs £83 incl. postage

Musicweb sells the following labels

Altus 10% off
Atoll 10% off
CRD 10% off
Hallé 10% off
Lyrita 10% off
Nimbus 10% off
Nimbus Alliance
Prima voce 10% off
Red Priest 10% off
Retrospective 10% off
Saydisc 10% off
Sterling 10% off

Follow us on Twitter

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing

Sample: See what you will get

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
Rob Barnett
Editor in Chief
John Quinn
Seen & Heard
Editor Emeritus
   Bill Kenny
MusicWeb Webmaster
   David Barker
Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger


alternatively AmazonUK

Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
Sonata for Viola and Piano No. 1 in F minor, Op. 120 (1894) [22:05]
Sonata for Viola and Piano No. 2 in E-flat major, Op. 120 (1894) [19:52]
Sonata for Cello and Piano in E minor, Op. 38 (1862-65) (Transcribed for viola by Emanuel Vardi) [26:17]
Sonata for Violin and Piano No. 1 in G major, Op. 78 (1879) [27:19]
Sonata for Violin and Piano No. 2 in A major, Op. 100 (1886) [21:14]
Sonata for Violin and Piano No. 3 in D minor, Op. 108 (1888) [22:27]
Emanuel Vardi (viola), Nobu Wakabayashi (violin), Kathron Sturrock (piano)
rec. rec. St. Michael’s Church, Highgate, London, 21-23 August 1991 (CD1), 18-19 July 1991 (CD2)
PORTRAIT CLASSICS PCL2103 [68:55 + 71:43]

A qualified recommendation. Just don’t turn up the volume too high!

This two-disc set is a reissue of separate mid-price CDs on the IMP Classics label, originally released in the early ’nineties. Now they appear as a set and at budget price. They contain the complete Brahms violin and viola sonatas plus a transcription for viola of the first cello sonata.
Of the two discs, I prefer the violin sonatas for a number of reasons. First, I find the autumnal nature of Brahms’ Op. 120 better expressed by the original, clarinet versions that he composed for Richard Mühlfeld. Second, Emanuel Vardi’s performance, while more than just accurate, lacks something in the way of expressiveness and color. He recorded these sonatas very late in his career and that could be the reason. Nevertheless, they are certainly good accounts of these works — at least as far as the two viola sonatas are concerned — and Kathron Sturrock accompanies well. However, the Cello Sonata transcription loses much of the darkness of its character when played on the viola.
Nobu Wakabayashi and Sturrock, on the other hand, are generally very convincing in the violin sonatas — best of all in the D minor work. There is a nice balance between violin and piano, and Wakabayashi has a warm and rich tone. Though something bothers me here that I think has to do more with the recorded sound than the performances. Whenever the sound approaches forte, the violin’s tone becomes harsh, coarse-grained. This is especially noticeable on headphones, less so when listening through speakers. Yet it soon becomes wearing. Setting the volume lower helps, but I would prefer a more distant recording. This is also noticeable in the viola sonatas, but to a lesser degree.
There are many alternatives one could recommend for both the violin and the viola sonatas. For example, for the former Dumay/Pires (DG) are hard to beat, although I haven’t heard the new Znaider/Bronfman recording for RCA that has been getting rave reviews. For the viola sonatas, the recent Lawrence Power/Simon Crawford-Phillips has been highly praised. And there are many other favorites from the past. As I stated above, though, when I want to hear the Op. 120 sonatas I would rather hear the clarinet versions. For those the Fröst/Pöntinen duo on BIS is a real winner. Of course, all of these recommendations come at full price. For a budget issue, this Portrait Classics issue receives a qualified recommendation. Just don’t turn up the volume too high!
Leslie Wright


Advertising on

Donate and keep us afloat



Recordings of the Month


From Ocean’s Floor


Conner Riddle Songs

Rodzinski Sibelius

Of Innocence and Experience


Symphonies 1, 2, 3


Return to Review Index

Untitled Document

Reviews from previous months
Join the mailing list and receive a hyperlinked weekly update on the discs reviewed. details
We welcome feedback on our reviews. Please use the Bulletin Board
Please paste in the first line of your comments the URL of the review to which you refer.