Brahms

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Brahms
LABELS: Onyx
WORKS: Violin Sonatas Nos 1-3; Scherzo from the FAE Sonata
PERFORMER: Augustin Dumay (violin), Louis Lortie (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: ONYX 4133

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Way back in 1992 Augustin Dumay and Maria João Pires released a recording of the three Brahms Violin Sonatas on DG that was worthy of being ranked alongside legendary performances from the likes of Josef Suk and Julius Katchen. Over 20 years later and working with a different but equally distinguished pianist, Dumay has replicated the magic of his earlier disc. The playing is no less masterly, but Dumay and Lortie bring fresh insights to such well-loved music.

Their approach to the G major Sonata is particularly mesmerising. Capturing the essence of the first movement is notoriously problematic in that Brahms requests it be taken at a lively speed, but with sufficient flexibility to encompass the music’s more reflective qualities. Superficially the tempo adopted here for the opening might seem too deliberate, but such is the ethereal timbral quality of Dumay’s violin that there is no danger of the music sounding stodgy. Throughout the movement both artists’ instinctive approach to rubato enables the musical argument to flow seamlessly between passages of high intensity and those of melancholy introversion.

A similar fluidity is evident in the Finale. The expansive tempo adopted by Dumay and Lortie acknowledges Brahms’s very specific and challenging marking of Allegro molto moderato. Yet once again there is enough give and take in the phrasing to avoid any sense of inertia, and the closing bars have a sublime radiance.

Needless to say, the rest of this beautifully engineered disc abounds in outstanding and musically perceptive playing, a superbly judged mixture of warmth and purity in the A major Sonata, and high-octane urgency, particularly in the Finale of the D minor Sonata.
 

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Erik Levi