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Brahms: Sonatas, Op. 120, etc

Antoine Tamestit (viola), Cédric Tiberghien (piano), et al (Harmonia Mundi)

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

Viola Sonatas, Op. 120; Zwei Gesänge, Op. 91*, etc.
*Matthias Goerne (tenor), Antoine Tamestit (viola), Cédric Tiberghien (piano)
Harmonia Mundi HMM 902652   50:22 mins

Antoine Tamestit and Cédric Tiberghien claim that their chosen instruments for these recordings – a specially loaned Stradivarius viola, and a vintage-1899 Bechstein piano – ‘actually redefined our approach to this music.’ Perhaps from their point of view, but the end result for the listener is more contentious than they surely intend. Tamestit’s viola is a wonderful instrument for sure, offering a keening intensity quite different from the over-inflated tonal heft preferred by some of his present-day colleagues. In this company the Bechstein piano sounds odd, with a strangely matte tone (as if its una corda ‘soft’ pedal were permanently deployed) and less in the way of compensating tonal options one might have expected.

If you can accept this curious sonic mismatch (or at least find it intriguing), the playing of these two fine artists offers high-class musical riches at every point, Tamestit finding a ceaseless range of tone-colours that always sounds natural rather than contrived. Having a Brahms song played after each sonata works nicely in terms of simpler lyrical contrast; and both aspects then come together in the beautiful pair of Op. 91 Gesänge for voice, viola and piano, sung by Matthias Goerne with his trademark unaffected warmth.


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Malcolm Hayes