Violin Sonatas: Brahms, Schumann & Schumann
The central figure in Jennifer Pike’s intelligently conceived second recital for Chandos is the great violinist Joseph Joachim. He was a strong advocate of the Sonatas by Brahms and Schumann and the dedicatee of the delightful Romances by Clara Schumann. Unfortunately, none of the surviving recordings by Joachim give us any idea how he might have played these pieces, but sufficient anecdotal evidence survives to suggest that he always eschewed the excessive use of vibrato. It’s a ploy that is imaginatively appropriated by Pike, especially in the Brahms where she is particularly careful not to be over-indulgent, saving the most intense playing for the development section of the first movement and the central funeral march of the ensuing Adagio. There are occasional passages, for example the restrained coda in this latter movement, where her phrasing seems a little static. But all in all, this a refreshingly projected performance which boasts an almost ideal fluidity in terms of manipulation of tempo and nuance in the first movement.
This fluidity is also strikingly prevalent in warm-hearted performances of the Clara Schumann Romances and most obviously in the A minor Sonata by Robert Schumann. Here both Pike and Poster convincingly delineate the neurotic anxieties that percolate through the first movement and also capture the whimsicality of the central Allegretto. The Finale is a particular triumph, both players relaxing the tempo sufficiently to give the lyrical episode in the middle of the movement much greater emotional impact than is often the case. At just over 54 minutes this warmly recorded programme may seem rather short measure, but the distinction of the performances is never in doubt.