Reviews and occasional notes on classical music

Reviews and occasional notes on classical music

"Music, both vocall and instrumental, so good, so delectable, so rare, so admirable, so super excellent, that it did even ravish and stupifie all those strangers that never heard the like." - Thomas Coryat, after hearing 3 hours of music at the Scuola di San Rocco in Venice, 1608.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

An Outstanding Brahms Program,

From June 28, 2011:

Every competent performance of a Brahms violin sonata will have in it something of interest: each phrase is perfect and inevitable, but somehow at the same time constantly surprising and evocative. Great performances will always be emotional but not sentimental, and classically balanced but not dry or academic.

There's an old Gaelic proverb that says "When the cup is fullest it is most difficult to carry." Brahms has filled the cups to the very brim in his three violin sonatas, and the challenge to violin and piano partners who would carry them is daunting. This new disc from Arabella Steinbacher and Robert Kulek is as accomplished as any recent CD in this repertoire.

I'm a big fan of Steinbacher's tone, and her technical capabilities are obvious. Kulek provides more than simple accompaniment; he's an equal partner in this challenging music. This is outstanding musicianship, with the artists' egos subjugated to the logic of the music. Pentatone has provided stunning sound in this 2010 Dutch recording. The multi-channel super audio format is perfect for presenting both the drama and the intimacy of Brahms' chamber music.

Not every disc of the Violin Sonatas finds room for the Scherzo that Brahms contributed to the FAE Sonata, along with Albert Dietrich and Robert Schumann. This is no mere filler, but an accomplished work by the 20-year-old composer. It's a splendid encore to an outstanding program of masterpieces for violin and piano.

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