Aureole etc.




Nimbus on-line




If it’s the Czech works you’re after, do not hesitate

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett


CD REVIEW
RECORDING OF THE MONTH


Some items
to consider

 


Enjoy the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra wherever you are. App available for iOS and Android


Mahler symphony 6 Nott


Vaughan Williams Symphony 3 etc.


Lyrita New Recording


Lyrita Premiere Recordings

Lyrita 4CDs £16 incl.postage

Lyrita 4CDs £16 incl.postage


Decca Phase 4 - 40CDs


Judith Bailey, George Lloyd


BAX Orchestral pieces


CASKEN Violin Concerto

Schumann Symphonies Rattle


Complete Brahms
Bargain price

 

 

 

 


Buy through MusicWeb for £18 postage paid (sale or return).
You may prefer to pay by Sterling cheque or Euro notes to avoid PayPal. Contact for details

Musicweb Purchase button

 

Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
CD 1
Sonata in F minor for clarinet/viola and piano, Op. 120 No. 1 (1895) [22:35]
Violin Sonata in G major, Op. 78 (arr. viola Klengel/Rysanov) (1879) [26:34]
Trio in E flat for horn/viola, violin and piano, Op. 40 (1866) [28:16]
CD 2
Sonata in E flat major, Op. 120 No. 2 (1895) [21:35]
Trio in A minor for clarinet/viola, cello and piano, Op. 114 (1892) [25:29]
Maxim Rysanov (viola); Katya Apekisheva (piano CD 1); Boris Brovtsyn (violin); Jacob Katsnelson (piano CD 2); Kristine Blaumane (cello)
rec. Gnessin College of Music, Moscow - October 2007 (CD1); Slabodkin Center Music Hall, Moscow – January/May 2008. DDD
ONYX 4033 [77:35 + 47:09]

Experience Classicsonline

Obviously intended as a showcase for Maxim Rysanov, whose name appears in bold type, this outstanding pair of discs deserves to be heard as widely as possible – not just by viola players or admirers of Brahms’ chamber music. As a viola player myself, I have no hesitation in describing Rysanov as the greatest master of the instrument I have ever heard. Today there are more star-quality viola players than ever before, including Tabea Zimmermann, Yuri Bashmet, Lawrence Power, Kim Kashkashian and Nobuko Imai. Yet for me Rysanov is even more exciting than these illustrious virtuosi. For me the two Brahms Sonatas have never sounded such great works, and I believe many listeners will be similarly persuaded by Rysanov’s phenomenal performances.
 
Surely there has been too much emphasis on the autumnal qualities associated with Brahms’ late music. Is this not a lazy cliché, describing only one element of these multi-faceted works? In the two clarinet/viola sonatas there is no shortage of muscularity, passion, energy, humour or light-heartedness, but it takes performances of this stature to open up the wide expressive range which Brahms encompasses in these works. Rysanov is a great musician who plays the viola – not merely an outstanding instrumentalist. There is an ease about his playing, a total expressive freedom which is absolutely thrilling. Also one quickly takes for granted his perfect intonation.
 
The matter of viola tone is a question of personal taste. The instrument can sound veiled, foggy or, on the C string, booming, and to some these qualities may seem ideal. Rysanov produces a fabulous quality of sound – honeyed yet extremely clear, paradoxical though this may seem. No matter how forceful he can be - and his dynamic range is remarkable – he always sounds as though he has more in reserve.
 
Tone in itself is only one aspect. A ravishing sound soon becomes cloying if not sufficiently varied. Rysanov has an excellent instinct for those passages of lower emotional temperature which benefit from a reduction of vibrato or a shadowy tone. Equally he negotiates the tricky semiquaver arpeggio passages in the opening movement of the F minor sonata and the final movement of the E flat sonata with terrific clarity and élan. These are the passages which usually sound better on Brahms’ first-choice instrument, the clarinet, but Rysanov completely banishes any thoughts that the viola is a lesser alternative.
 
As I suggested, the prevailing view of Brahms’ late music as autumnal needs revising. Many performers perhaps temper their approach, allowing too much “old man’s” nostalgia. After all, Brahms was only into his early sixties, and his creative rejuvenation motivated by Mühlfeld’s clarinet playing is especially obvious in the fire and passion of the Clarinet Quintet.
 
Rysanov plays the Vivace finale of the F minor sonata with marvellous energy and extrovert spirit. Again, the grazioso passage in the variation finale of the E flat sonata is not only graceful but more playful and skittish than I ever imagined it. From the E flat sonata the second movement is truly appassionato as well as heroic. These are just a few examples of the revelatory nature of Rysanov’s interpretations.
 
Having said my piece about this fabulous viola-player, I must not neglect the other fantastic musicians on these discs. They are all exceptional chamber-music players and I quite honestly could not wish to hear more intensely musical and committed interpretations of these various works. Brahms’ piano parts are always demanding, but both Rysanov’s partners are superb in every respect. There is more light and shade in Brahms than is often realised – his music does not have to be heavily Teutonic and strenuous all the time – and these performances admirably support this view. I had to keep playing these CDs just to make sure I was not overdoing the superlatives, but I stand by my first impressions. This really is completely inspired music-making.
 
On the question of arrangements, it has to be said that the reservations I had regarding these alternative versions of the two trios soon evaporated. Brahms himself wrote to publisher Simrock “My Horn-Trio should be provided with a viola part instead of the cello! With cello it sounds dreadful, but splendid with the viola! The title should read: Horn or viola!” Brahms is known also to have rehearsed the A minor Trio – a great work which has always been overshadowed by the Clarinet Quintet – with viola. In this version the viola part is particularly difficult, much of it lying in a high register, but Rysanov makes it sound effortless and totally natural. In both the trios the combination of two string instruments with piano is very satisfying, and on the strength of these performances I would question why we don’t hear these alternatives more often.
 
The G major Violin Sonata is played here - transposed into D major - in an adaptation by Paul Klengel (1854-1935), who was “house arranger” at Simrock. The lowering of key may be disconcerting to some, but with a performance of this quality any such reservations should soon be forgotten.
 
The listed timings are slightly inaccurate, while the notes (brief but good) include a section on Brahms and the viola, summaries of the included works and biographies of all the players. Happily the foliage art-work is not too autumnal, and actually very beautiful. The recorded sound and balance are all one could wish for.
 
This recording is on my list of CDs of the year. I’d be surprised if there were anything classier in the chamber music section. I dearly hope Onyx will engage Rysanov to record Schumann’s chamber music including solo viola as soon as possible.
 
Philip Borg-Wheeler
 

 


Gerard Hoffnung CDs

Advertising on
Musicweb


Donate and get a free CD

New Releases

Naxos Classical

Hyperion

Musicweb sells the following labels
Acte Préalable
Alto
Arcodiva
Atoll
CDAccord
Cameo Classics
Centaur
Hallé
Hortus
Lyrita
Nimbus
Northern Flowers
Redcliffe
Sheva
Talent
Toccata Classics


Follow us on Twitter

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing
sample
 


EXPLORE MUSICWEB INTERNATIONAL

Making a Donation to MusicWeb

Writing CD reviews for MWI

About MWI
Who we are, where we have come from and how we do it.

Site Map

How to find a review

How to find articles on MusicWeb
Listed in date order

Review Indexes
   By Label
      Select a label and all reviews are listed in Catalogue order
   By Masterwork
            Links from composer names (eg Sibelius) are to resource pages with links to the review indexes for the individual works as well as other resources.

Themed Review pages

Jazz reviews

 

Discographies
   Composer
      Composer surveys
   National
      Unique to MusicWeb -
a comprehensive listing of all LP and CD recordings of given works
.
Prepared by Michael Herman

The Collector’s Guide to Gramophone Company Record Labels 1898 - 1925
Howard Friedman

Book Reviews

Complete Books
We have a number of out of print complete books on-line

Interviews
With Composers, Conductors, Singers, Instumentalists and others
Includes those on the Seen and Heard site

Nostalgia

Nostalgia CD reviews

Records Of The Year
Each reviewer is given the opportunity to select the best of the releases

Monthly Best Buys
Recordings of the Month and Bargains of the Month

Comment
Arthur Butterworth Writes

An occasional column

Phil Scowcroft's Garlands
British Light Music articles

Classical blogs
A listing of Classical Music Blogs external to MusicWeb International

Reviewers Logs
What they have been listening to for pleasure

Announcements

 

Community
Bulletin Board

Give your opinions or seek answers

Reviewers
Pat and present

Helpers invited!

Resources
How Did I Miss That?

Currently suspended but there are a lot there with sound clips


Composer Resources

British Composers

British Light Music Composers

Other composers

Film Music (Archive)
Film Music on the Web (Closed in December 2006)

Programme Notes
For concert organizers

External sites
British Music Society
The BBC Proms
Orchestra Sites
Recording Companies & Retailers
Online Music
Agents & Marketing
Publishers
Other links
Newsgroups
Web News sites etc

PotPourri
A pot-pourri of articles

MW Listening Room
MW Office

Advice to Windows Vista users  
Questionnaire    
Site History  
What they say about us
What we say about us!
Where to get help on the Internet
CD orders By Special Request
Graphics archive
Currency Converter
Dictionary
Magazines
Newsfeed  
Web Ring
Translation Service

Rules for potential reviewers :-)
Do Not Go Here!
April Fools




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.