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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
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)
Sonata for Violin and Piano No. 3 in D minor, Op. 108 (1888)
(violin), Kathron Sturrock (piano)
rec. rec. St. Michael’s Church, Highgate, London, 21-23 August
1991 (CD1), 18-19
July 1991 (CD2)
CLASSICS PCL2103 [68:55 + 71:43]
A qualified recommendation.
Just don’t turn
up the volume too high!
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.
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.
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
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
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