Brahms: Violin Sonatas Nos 1-3

Tasmin Little and 
Piers Lane (Chandos)

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Brahms Violin Sonatas Nos 1-3
Tasmin Little (violin), Piers Lane (piano)
Chandos CHAN10977 70:35 mins

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Rarely have I heard such unanimity of ensemble on disc. Tasmin Little and Piers Lane’s fluid yet flexible approach to rubato and tempo fluctuation can only have been achieved after years of rehearsing together and exchanging musical ideas. Little’s intense and warm vibrato is matched by Lane’s wonderfully rich piano with its emphasis on the bass register, ideally suited to Brahms.

Yet though I admire the fluency of these performances, the only interpretation that really worked for me was that of Sonata No. 3 in D minor. Here both players respond well to the dramatic urgency of the outer movements, and Little sustains a wonderfully intense sound through the Adagio’s long-breathed melody. Their performances of the more emotionally elusive First and Second Sonatas don’t create such a stimulating impact partly because Little’s sound has less variety of colour and a restricted dynamic range. Good examples of these limitations are particularly in evidence in the slow movements of both works. In Sonata No. 1 in G major, I wondered whether Little could have projected a darker, more mysterious sound in the quieter passages of minor key middle section, whereas in the A major both players seem to understate the playful musical dialogues of the Vivace sections.

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Erik Levi