BRAHMS: 3 Violin Sonatas – Szymon Goldberg, violin/ Artur Balsam, piano – Testament

by | Jul 30, 2005 | Classical Reissue Reviews | 0 comments

BRAHMS: 3 Violin Sonatas – Szymon Goldberg, violin/ Artur Balsam, piano

Testament SBT 1357,  68:56 (Distrib. Harmonia Mundi)****:

I do not often have the opportunity to write on the subject of Polish
violin virtuoso Szymon Goldberg (1909-1993), but the issue of his May
1953 survey of the Brahms sonatas in scribed in New York with fellow
Pole Artur Balsam (1906-1994) reminds me that I did own the American
Decca LP of their Schumann A Minor Sonata and these Brahms staples.
Collectors know Goldberg from his successful 1930’s recordings of
Mozart with Lily Kraus; Balsam made a powerful career of accompanying
many great string players from Francescatti to Menuhin to Milstein and
Morini. One particular feather in Goldberg’s discography (albeit
pirate) is his rendition of the Beethoven Violin Concerto in its
original version with Dimitri Mitropoulos, inscribed in 1950. I also
recall fondly several Epic LP recordings of Haydn and Hindemith with
the Netherlands Chamber Orchestra led by Goldberg, as well as an
occasional RCA LP of the Festival String Quartet with Goldberg as
principal violin, particularly of the Op. 45 Faure Piano Quartet with
pianist Victor Babin.

Each of the Brahms sonatas simply sounds great; the 1711 Liegnitz
Stradivarius that Goldberg cherished is most forefront. The level of
intensity, however, does produce a kind of emotional monochrome if you
take the entire cycle in one sitting, so it might be better to savor
these sonatas each in its own time. What strikes me musically is the
exquisite balance achieved in tonal and dynamic weight; the aggressive
or plaintive filigree realized by Balsam is equally present, making
their collaboration on a par with Francescatti/Casadesus and
Szigeti/Horszowski among old-school practitioners. But Goldberg’s
approach is more direct and literal than his fellow romantics’
readings, his opting for direct attacks on the musical line, spare
vibrato, and a penchant for the long phrase. The fluidity of ensemble
and Balsam’s sparkling middle and upper registers make these all three
memorable Brahms interpretations to maintain for the long haul.

–Gary Lemco

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