BRAHMS: Violin Sonata No. 1 in G, Op. 78; Violin Sonata No. 2 in A, Op. 100; Violin Sonata No. 3 in D Minor, Op. 108; Viola Sonata No. 1 in F Minor, Op. 120, No. 1; Viola Sonata No. 2 in E-flat, Op. 120, No. 2; Scherzo in C Minor from FAE Sonata

by | May 15, 2005 | Classical CD Reviews | 0 comments

BRAHMS: Violin Sonata No. 1 in G, Op. 78; Violin Sonata No. 2 in A,
Op. 100; Violin Sonata No. 3 in D Minor, Op. 108; Viola Sonata No. 1 in
F Minor, Op. 120, No. 1; Viola Sonata No. 2 in E-flat, Op. 120, No. 2;
Scherzo in C Minor from FAE Sonata – Schlomo Mintz, viola &
viola/Itamar Golan, piano – Avie AV2057 75:45; 53:35 (Distrib.
ClassiQuest)****:

Some twenty years ago, I
auditioned the Brahms Violin Sonata No. 2 in A with Gidon Kremer and
Valery Affanassiev on WQXR’s “First Hearing,” a performance lovely in
tone but entirely too slow and romanticized for my taste. Perhaps I
have mellowed or slowed down myself, but the performances here
inscribed by Schlomo Mintz (b. 1957), again played for exquisite beauty
and sweetness of tone but very slow and expansive in tempo, seem less
idiosyncratic to me. The so-called Regenlied Op. 78 Sonata receives the
most stretching of the bar of the three sonatas. Idyllic and melancholy
in sentiment, the sonata can bear the occasional, histrionic moments of
self-indulgence Mintz accords it.

For the move from lyricism to high drama, we really have to wait for
the D Minor Sonata of 1886. Then Mintz cuts loose and allows his
pianist Golan some exuberant passion as well. The little bit of sweet
dalliance that marks the F-sharp Minor third movement is delicate and
suddenly stormy at its D Minor episode. In the last two pages of the
final movement, Mintz leans hard into his bowing arm, and the music
dazzles with the kind of explosive tempestuousness we have been
awaiting for some time. The A Major “Thun” Sonata is thoroughly
gracious, just a mite slow, except for those who relish Mintz’s colors,
whatever the speed. I still favor Szigeti and Horszowski for sheer
magic of ensemble.

Mintz plays an equally compelling viola, and his F Minor Sonata of
1894, originally written for Richard Muehlfeld, the Meiningen Court
Orchestra clarinetist, has an autumnal beauty remarkable for its
quality of tone and undercurrent of restless agitation in the piano
part. The singing line of the Andante con poco Adagio is worth the
entire price of admission, and the pursuant Allegro grazioso enjoys a
Schubertian ease and simplicity of phrase. The F Major rondo is a
spirited gallop in the bravura tradition, with its three clarion Fs
ubiquitous in various guises and the shifts of viola registration no
impediment to the lively interplay of the two instruments. The perky
E-flat Sonata (which I originally heard in the clarinet version with
Benny Goodman and Nadia Reisenberg) has the grand leisure of exposition
that marks the Mintz violin sonatas. The piano part has some exemplary
touches, even a bit of French taste, in the suave syncopations that Mr.
Golan likely learned under his mentor Leonard Shure. After an athletic
Scherzo in E-flat, the final movement – the composer’s last excursion
into his favorite device of theme-and-variations – likewise allows Mr.
Golan some free expression in variant 5, just prior to the coda –
itself a high-spirited and passionate farewell to the chamber music
medium. Recorded late October to early November, 2003 in Teldex Studio,
Berlin, these are ripe, resounding recordings, and the incisive Scherzo
in C Minor from the eclectic FAE Sonata makes for an audiophile demo in
itself.

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