MusicWeb International One of the most grown-up review sites around 2024
60,000 reviews
... and still writing ...

Search MusicWeb Here Acte Prealable Polish CDs

Presto Music CD retailer
Founder: Len Mullenger                                    Editor in Chief:John Quinn             

Some items
to consider

new MWI
Current reviews

old MWI
pre-2023 reviews

paid for

Acte Prealable Polish recordings

Forgotten Recordings
Forgotten Recordings
All Forgotten Records Reviews

Troubadisc Weinberg- TROCD01450

All Troubadisc reviews

FOGHORN Classics

Brahms String Quartets

All Foghorn Reviews

All HDTT reviews

Songs to Harp from
the Old and New World

all Nimbus reviews

all tudor reviews

Follow us on Twitter

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
Rob Barnett
Editor in Chief
John Quinn
Contributing Editor
Ralph Moore
   David Barker
Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger


Advertising on

Donate and keep us afloat


New Releases

Naxos Classical
All Naxos reviews

Chandos recordings
All Chandos reviews

Hyperion recordings
All Hyperion reviews

Foghorn recordings
All Foghorn reviews

Troubadisc recordings
All Troubadisc reviews

all Bridge reviews

all cpo reviews

Divine Art recordings
Click to see New Releases
Get 10% off using code musicweb10
All Divine Art reviews

All Eloquence reviews

Lyrita recordings
All Lyrita Reviews


Wyastone New Releases
Obtain 10% discount

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing




Pristine Classical

Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
Violin sonata no. 1 in G major, Op. 78 (1879) [26:31]
Violin sonata no. 2 in A major, Op. 100 (1887) [19:41]
Violin sonata no. 3 in D minor, Op. 108 (1888) [21:09]
Albert Spalding (violin), Erno Dohnányi (piano)
rec. October 1951, New York City. ADD

Experience Classicsonline

The Brahms’ three violin sonatas are not evenly separated in his output; there is a nine year gap between the first and second, but only a year between the second and third. As a group they illustrate the development of his compositional style.

The first sonata is lyrical in a not quite untroubled way; there are quotations from two of Brahms’ songs in the finale. One of these was “Regenlied” (Rain song), op. 59 no. 3, and this sonata is sometimes known as the “Rain” sonata as a result. The second sonata is also predominantly lyrical, but traverses a rich emotional landscape, somewhat like the Second Piano Trio in C major of 1880. The final sonata is more concise than the earlier two; the most dramatic and tragic of the set, it is the only one to have a scherzo: the others having only three movements.

The American violinist Albert Spalding (1888-1953) recorded these works in 1951 with the Hungarian pianist, conductor and pianist Erno Dohnányi (1877-1960). Spalding had made many 78rpm recordings for the Edison company, and went on to record the Beethoven and Brahms concertos, the Brahms Hungarian dances, and other repertoire on the Remington label. These were issued in long playing format, first in a red label series, then in a black-and-gold label pressed on vinyl. The present recording is taken from the former series, and is produced by Mark Obert-Thorn.

Spalding and Dohnányi take the first movement of the first sonata appreciably quicker than other versions: 9:51 versus 11:14 for Pauk/Vignoles. The approach is warm, with plenty of fantasy and impulsiveness. The generous tempo fluctuations take us back to an earlier performance era; Dohnányi does well to keep up with Spalding, who tends to speed up in the louder passages. Spalding takes a calmer approach to the second movement, and the coda is sensitively treated. His intonation is a little under the note occasionally in this movement. The finale is a bit patchy rhythmically, with Spalding again tending to rush the faster passages. There is a beautiful reprise of the second movement “Rain” theme in the piano. Dohnányi’s accompaniment is attractively dark-toned, and matches Spalding in impulsivity.

The second sonata finds Dohnányi somewhat more assertive in the balance; unfortunately the sound in this sonata is a bit more congested. Spalding varies his dynamic range a bit more in the first movement. The theme of the second movement could be played a little more spaciously, but the faster episodes have a spontaneous feel and the pizzicato is neatly done. Spalding launches the third movement with a rich and warm tone from his G string; he is inclined to lighten his bow a little more here than previously. His intonation is a shade variable again, and he is not very inclined to recede and let Dohnányi have the tune.

The third sonata displays the steadiest playing; the duo seem to focus more. It begins in an urgent and agitated fashion. Spalding has some odd phrasing in this movement, cutting some notes unexpectedly short. The broad chorale-like theme of the second movement is played with great warmth and some discreet portamenti. The emotionally ambiguous third movement again finds Spalding’s intonation inconsistent, this time in the chords. The finale opens in dramatic and rhapsodic style; and Dohnányi blurs his part a little in the heat of the moment. The set, and this sonata in particular, have the feeling of a live performance, a sense which is only heightened by the occasional wrong notes.

Competition is pretty fierce with the Brahms violin sonatas, and there is no shortage of alternative versions. I bought the Brilliant Classics complete Brahms chamber music set (Brilliant 99800) mainly to get the violin sonatas with György Pauk and Roger Vignoles. This long established duo gives performances that, for me, realise Brahms’ full emotional spectrum, from the pastoral first sonata to the stormy third. Their interplay has the security and generosity that rest on a thorough mutual understanding. Pauk and Vignoles are a bit more relaxed than Spalding/Dohnányi tempo-wise, taking 71:47 for the set as against 67:21. I recently saw this set as a single CD; either in this form, or as part of the set - which is excellent value - it would get my vote for a very good mainstream reading.

Spalding’s lapses in intonation, lack of dynamic variety and rather excitable approach make it hard to recommend this disc for everyday. As a somewhat quirky complement to a more mainstream performance, however, it has a lot going for it. The warmth and spontaneity, and sense of live performance caught on the wing, are very attractive. Dohnányi’s contribution also has a great deal of character, and his collaboration with Spalding captures the playing of an earlier era which perhaps didn’t make such a fetish of perfection. Mark Obert-Thorn’s transfers have a natural sound that allows one to concentrate on the music.

Guy Aron








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


      Composer surveys
      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

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


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

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



Bulletin Board

Give your opinions or seek answers

Past and present

Helpers invited!

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
Other links
Web News sites etc

A pot-pourri of articles

MW Listening Room
MW Office

Advice to Windows Vista users  
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
Web Ring
Translation Service

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

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.