Brahms: Sonatas for viola and piano in F minor & in E flat

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COMPOSERS: Brahms,Schumann
LABELS: Avi-music
WORKS: Brahms: Sonatas for viola and piano in F minor & in E flat; Schumann: Märchenbilder
PERFORMER: Rachel Roberts (viola), Lars Vogt (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: Avi-music 8553181

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Currently the viola player in the Dante Quartet, Rachel Roberts already has an impressive chamber music pedigree. She has worked regularly with the Capuçon brothers, Isabelle Faust and many other leading string players. This beautifully engineered solo recital with pianist Lars Vogt demonstrates her many strengths, not least a honeyed tone and a capacity to project a real sense of intimacy.

This latter quality is brought to the fore most memorably in the outer movements of Schumann’s Märchenbilder where both Roberts and Vogt engage in a trance-like melodic dialogue that perfectly encapsulates the music’s yearning to escape the trials and tribulations of daily existence. In contrast, a much more impulsive, almost unhinged, experience is projected
in the fast and furious passagework of the third movement.

Vogt opens the Brahms Sonata in F minor in an expansive manner, saving the composer’s designated appassionato marking for the stormy development section. Less convincing however is the change of tempo at the Sostenuto ed espressivo coda which seems mannered and almost grinds to a halt before the final bars. Likewise, despite some wonderfully sensitive use of rubato, the ensuing slow movement is a little ponderous, with both players finding it difficult to sustain the long melodic lines.

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In the opening movement of the E flat Sonata, Roberts and Vogt continue with the dreamy approach that characterises much of their Schumann. In many respects their view of the music perfectly accords with the autumnal nature of Brahms’s late style. Yet, at the same time there are moments in the score, for example in the minor variation in the Finale and the closing bars, where both players could afford to be more exuberant. Erik Levi