Brahms: Violin Sonatas

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WORKS: Violin Sonatas
PERFORMER: Maria João Pires (pno), Augustin Dumay (vln)
Augustin Dumay’s monumentally patrician stance in the Brahms Sonatas imbues these lucid, distinguished performances with an inner compulsion which is hard to resist. But even if the architectural and formal requirements of the music can be addressed, to a degree, by rhetoric alone, no amount of hectoring advocacy could ever prepare the listener for the crystalline tonal beauty and sheer logic of this playing. The G major Sonata, Op. 78, arguably the least demonstrative of the three, responds particularly well to an element of understatement, with the result that its thematic unity is clarified. Maria João Pires is certainly superb here, and the empathy between these artists is evident throughout the disc.


Dumay’s surgingly vivacious reading of the A major Sonata has a typical bounding energy, and certainly no lack of intimacy, notably in the central movement, where each contrasting episode is persuasively nuanced with total equanimity. If a certain songful aspect dominates in this performance, it does so to the greatest advantage, given that Brahms hardly conceals direct references to no fewer than three earlier songs in this work.


By way of absolute contrast, the Sonata in D minor, Op. 108, is a challenging and defiant work, to which Dumay and Pires respond with fearsome and tireless resolve. Theirs is a reading of intense drama, whose repressed tension is hardly relieved, even in the sublime Adagio. The disc omits the Scherzo from the FAE Sonata; a small price to pay, considering the magisterial rewards of this issue, whose total duration already exceeds 70 minutes. Michael Jameson