(1833-1897) Violin Sonata No.
1 in G, Op. 78 (1879) [28:01] Violin Sonata No. 2 in A, Op.
100 (1886) [19:43] Violin Sonata No. 3 in D minor,
Op. 108 (1888) [20:11] Kyung-Wha Chung (violin) Peter Frankl (piano) rec. September 1995, St George’sChurch, Brandon Hill, Bristol
EMI CLASSICS ENCORE 2357172 [67:56]
This disc does exactly what EMI Encore’s label is designed to
do: it returns to the catalogue, at budget price, a recording
which, while not top of the recommendable list, is thoroughly
dependable and very satisfying. While Chung’s Brahms may not
set the world on fire the music is safe in her hands and most
listeners, particularly first-timers, will be fully satisfied
with her playing.
During his lifetime Brahms was more in demand for his chamber music than
for his orchestral works, and these sonatas evince a true understanding
for the workings of the violin similar to that of the Violin
Concerto – indeed the first sonata dates from the same year
as the concerto. The first sonata is the most successful on
this disc, its world of twilit beauty standing in marked contrast
to the grandstanding of the concerto. The first movement, in
particular, shows a profound lyricism that we don’t always expect
from Brahms. In the second movement Frankl’s piano plumbs darker
emotions while Chung’s violin sometimes engages and sometimes
ignores her colleague’s music. There is a real sense of musical
dialogue here, as in the opening movement of the second sonata
where the violin and piano work in a hand-in-glove partnership,
even trying out each other’s themes. The same partnership is
there in the second movement with its songful main theme which
alternates with more agitated scherzo-like passages. There
is more drama and tension from the third sonata, with the opening
movement showing more of the almost symphonic working-out that
Brahms was so renowned for. There an architectural grandeur
about the finale, despite its marking of presto agitato,
while the hymn-like adagio stands as the serene centre of the
The playing here is first rate. Chung and Frankl clearly benefited from
a long period of rehearsal and communication, as well as an extensive
performance process (this disc was recorded in sessions over nine
days) and they are at their best in the moments of lyricism, especially
in the slow movements and in the opening of the first sonata.
They rise to the challenges of the stormier passages in No. 3
too, however, and they are helped by warm, ambient sound engineered
by the late and much lamented Christopher Raeburn. This Brahms
may not send a shiver down your spine in the way that Perlman/Barenboim
or Capuçon/Angelich so regularly do, but it remains a strong contender,
especially at this bargain price.
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