Brahms: Violin Sonata No. 1; Violin Sonata No. 2; Violin Sonata No. 3

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COMPOSERS: Brahms
LABELS: Decca
WORKS: Violin Sonata No. 1; Violin Sonata No. 2; Violin Sonata No. 3
PERFORMER: Pamela Frank (violin)Peter Serkin (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 455 643-2
Pamela Frank and Peter Serkin approach these familiar works with refreshing individuality, and with a striking determination to scale down their playing where necessary, to suit the intimacy of Brahms’s writing.

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The opening movement of the G major Sonata No. 1 is swifter than usual, but the tempo perfectly reflects the Vivace marking; while the slow movement, with the reprise of its funeral march second theme played as a ghostly shadow of its former self, is surely just what Brahms had in mind.

In the Sonata No. 3 in D minor (its Adagio second movement taken very slowly indeed), the dynamic weight of the work as a whole is placed firmly on the finale, as it should be. Perhaps no one can quite match the extraordinary refinement and subdued tension that Joseph Szigeti and Egon Petri brought to this sonata in their 1937 EMI recording; but of modern versions containing all three works, the warm, expansive performances by Augustin Dumay and Maria João Pires are particularly rewarding. This new Decca disc does not displace theirs in my affections, but complements it very well.

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Oistrakh and Richter give another fine performance of the A major Sonata, in what was their only joint appearance at the Salzburg Festival; but this 1972 Austrian Radio recording is likely to be of greater documentary value for the authoritative account of Prokofiev’s First Sonata (a finer work to my mind than the better-known D major Sonata No. 2), dedicated to Oistrakh, and played here with riveting intensity. Misha Donat