BRAHMS: Sonatas Nos. 1 & 2; WEIGL: Sonata; HINDEMITH: Sonata in F Major – Paul Doktor, viola/ Nadia Reisenberg, p. – Romeo

by | Jan 27, 2016 | Classical Reissue Reviews

Nadia Reisenberg joins master Paul Doktor in excellent restorations of the viola repertory.

BRAHMS: Sonata for Viola and Piano in f minor, Op. 120, No. 1; Sonata for Viola and Piano in E-flat Major, Op. 120. No. 2; WEIGL: Sonata for Viola and Piano in E-flat Major, Op. 32; HINDEMITH: Sonata in F Major for Viola and Piano, Op. 11, No. 4 – Paul Doktor, viola/ Nadia Reisenberg, p. – Romeo mono 7317, 76:01 (1/5/16) [Distr. by Albany] ****:

Romeo Records, in association with restoration engineer Seth Winner and producer/commentator Robert Sherman, revive the Westminster label inscription of the two Brahms viola sonatas (rec. January 1955) and the rarely heard Sonata in E-flat by Karl Weigl from a Triad label LP, c. 1953. The Hindemith Sonata, recorded live at Mannes College of Music in Manhattan (8 May 1963), makes its first appearance on disc. The two recitalists, Paul Doktor (1917-1989) and Nadia Reisenberg (1904-1983), remained stalwart champions of chamber music, often performing together. Karl Weigl seems to have composed his 1940 Sonata especially for Doktor, imparting to its Viennese style much of the lyric quality that Doktor’s tone and temperament would illuminate. Both Doktor and Reisenberg edited their respective parts for the official publication of the score.

The Weigl Sonata reveals an articulate advocate of post-Romantic sensibility, rather darkly-colored but expressive in a style naturally related to the Brahms and Reger sound world. The opening Adagio projects a rainy-day affect close to Brahms, with Reisenberg’s keyboard part’s often voice-leading the viola. The music assumes a fervid intensity in the course of its development, eventually settling into its more lyrical, if askew, intimacy for the later pages. The ensuing Allegretto ma non Troppo serves as a ternary intermezzo in the Schumann mode, a clarion song in a wistful mood. The Trio section has Resisenberg’s exerting her clear staccato over Doktor’s double stops and hurdy-gurdy, drone effects. The last movement Allegro takes both a more declamatory and martial tone – the resounding, angular effect a cross between Dvorak, Schumann, and Richard Strauss. The entire work, idiomatic and energetically personal, warrants more attention from the concert hall.

The 1919 Hindemith Viola Sonata, the fourth of his set for Op. 11, exhibits a decided lyricism, likely traceable to the composer’s admiration for Debussy. Doktor and Reisenberg, in concert at Mannes, project out of a rather lively acoustic, with the opening Fantasia’s enjoying a real sense of improvisation and mercurial impulse. Reisenberg performs some ravishing, sweeping arpeggio and block chord figures that exhibit “symphonic” ambitions. The silken segue to the Theme and Variations (attacca) provides a rare glimpse of Hindemith’s intimate side, certainly more expressive than academic. The music assumes a fertile momentum, moving to the Finale, with the usual assemblage of contrapuntal effects. In a lyrical moment, prior to the hectic last pages, Reisenberg and Doktor sell Hindemith as an ardent songster.

The two Brahms sonatas require little to no critical commentary. Having cut my own musical teeth on the Goodman/Reisenberg incarnation of the E-flat Sonata in its clarinet form, I had only hearty expectations for the viola version, and rarely have I heard the “amabile” of movement one realized so “verbatim.” The f minor Sonata may represent the real find, and I sought to compare this realization with that of another stellar collaboration, that of Kapell and Primrose. We have Brahms string exponents of equal power and persuasion, though I find – for the keyboard part – Reisenberg more explosive when Brahms demands “appassionato.” This Romeo disc, with its compilation of the familiar with the less familiar repertory, extends Robert Sherman’s restoration of his mother’s imposing legacy in a most impressive manner.

—Gary Lemco

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