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Bartók • Brahms • Janáček: Violin Sonatas

Patricia Kopatchinskaja (violin), Fazil Say (piano) (Alpha Classics)

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

Bartók • Brahms • Janáček
Bartók: Violin Sonata No. 1; Brahms: Violin Sonata No. 3; Janáček: Violin Sonata
Patricia Kopatchinskaja (violin), Fazil Say (piano)
Alpha Classics ALPHA885   72:18 mins


In the conversation between Patricia Kopatchinskaja and Fazil Say that does duty for a programme note, they draw comparison between Janáček and Bartók’s intense interest in folksong. Still, it would be hard to find three more distinct violin sonatas composed within a few decades of each other. The finest performance here, by far, is of the Bartók sonata, one of the most demanding of his modernist works. The spontaneity which the performers speak about in their ‘conversation’ materialises in playing that is both forceful and expressive: the first movement’s magical central section is genuinely spine-tingling, and the Adagio provides a perfect blend of lyricism and intellectual rigour.

Unfortunately, their reading of the other two sonatas is not in the same league. They respond well to the dramatic high points in Janáček’s programmatic Sonata, energised in part by his enthusiasm for Russia’s mobilisation against Austria at the start of World War I and with clear links to his opera Katya Kabanová, but overall there is little sense of narrative. In Brahms’s, often elusive, Third Violin Sonata, Kopatchinskaja takes rather too much of a back-seat role. Though there is an enjoyable sense of ‘live’ music-making, I suspect only the Bartók will reward repeated listening.


Jan Smaczny