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Editorial Board
Classical Editor
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Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
Hungarian Dances Volume 1 (arr. Joseph Joachim) [26:44]
Hungarian Dances Volume 2 (arr. Joachim) [25:40]
Joseph JOACHIM (1831-1907)
Variations in E minor [13:42]
Hagai Shaham (violin); Arnon Erez (piano)
rec. Jerusalem Music Centre, Jerusalem, Israel, 3-5 June 2007. DDD
HYPERION CDA67663 [66:08]
Experience Classicsonline

An uneasy relationship of professional admiration, a degree of jealousy, and awkward friendship existed between Johannes Brahms and Joseph Joachim. Brahms composed many works for Joachim - including his violin concerto, which he also dedicated to his friend, and he often turned to Joachim for help and advice. The upbringing of the two musicians was very different - Joachim had grown up with traditional Hungarian gypsy music - a type of music which hugely appealed to Brahms, who had been brought up in a more strictly classical tradition. Brahms therefore collected and arranged gypsy tunes as something exotic and foreign that nevertheless called strongly to him, whilst Joachim incorporated the spirit and melody of gypsy music into the character of his compositions as a natural matter of course.

Brahms considered his Hungarian Dances to be arrangements rather than original compositions. The Dances were originally published for solo piano or piano duet, and Joachim arranged them for the natural gypsy instrument, the violin, accompanied by the piano. He had quite a free hand with the arrangements, adding new cadenzas and passages, sometimes transposing sections, and ornamenting the melodic lines liberally to create a version more true to the wildness of the gypsy style.

On this disc from Hyperion, the two sets of Brahms’s Hungarian Dances are followed by Joachim’s Variations in E minor, which he dedicated to Sarasate, following Sarasate’s dedication of a set of Spanish Dances to him. The Variations in E minor is one of the very few works that Joachim composed in the later part of his life. The piece is are still pervaded by the spirit of the gypsy violinist, if less overtly than the Hungarian Dances.

The performers on this disc, the Israelite duo Hagai Shaham and Arnon Erez, give excellent performances - full-blooded, fiery, romantic and passionate, but with filigree touches of delicacy and sensitivity where needed. Shaham’s dark tone suits the music perfectly. The pieces are fiendishly difficult, yet Shaham and Erez play them with virtuosic flair. A superb disc.

Em Marshall 



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