Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
CD 1
Violin Sonata No.1 in G Op.78 (1879) [26:12]
Violin Sonata No.2 in A Op.100 (1886) [19:44]
Violin Sonata No.3 in D minor Op.108 (1888) [20:44]
CD 2
Cello Sonata No.1 in E minor Op.38 (1865) [27:04]
Cello Sonata No.2 in F major Op.99 (1886) [27:39]
Cello Sonata in D major – transcription of Violin Sonata in G Op.78 (1879 transcribed and published 1897) [25:39]
rec. 2009 (cello sonatas) and 2010 (violin sonatas), unspecified locations
Yuzuko Horigome (violin), Viviane Spanoghe (cello), André de Groote (piano)
TALENT DOM 3811 14-15 [66:46 + 79:47]
 
These are some of the most intimate performances of Brahms’s string sonatas that I’ve heard in a long time. That they also strike me, too often, as lukewarm is perhaps a reflection of my own prejudices in this repertoire, though I can’t help but feel that such small-scaled playing as this will inevitably court such an objection.
 
Yuzuko Horigome plays with musicianly discretion. She’s not out to make a big sound. Her intent is perhaps to sculpt an equable path between those moments of powerful extroversion in the music and its more melancholic tenor, but the results remain puzzling. The passagework is often low-key and sometimes sedentary. One admires her dynamic shaping and its refusal to endorse the habit of overpowering her pianist, here the equally reserved André de Groote. The sum total remains rather nebulous however, in Op.108 particularly, but also in Op.100 which sounds affectionate but if anything too intimate, too lacking in assertion. It takes Brahms to something of an extreme.
 
The cello sonatas see de Groote once again, this time teamed with Viviane Spanoghe. She too, like her violin colleague, is a subtle player, though again one without great tonal range or indeed amplitude. Occasionally the ensemble between the two is a little prosaic—it’s better in the violin works—and her understated watercolourist approach is, like Horigome’s, only one side of a much bigger picture. The duo plays the transcription of the Op.78 Violin Sonata made by the composer. This interesting addition takes the timings up to a very full one for this disc, but whilst it is good to hear once in a while, it remains something of a curio.
 
There is simply too much competition for these performances to thrive. They offer a rather abashed, withdrawn approach - one by which I remain unconvinced.
 
Jonathan Woolf
 
Some of the most intimate performances of Brahms’s string sonatas that I’ve heard in a long time.