Violin Sonatas, Vol. 2: Sonata in E flat (arr. Clarinet Sonata No. 2); Violin Sonatas Nos 2 & 3
Ulf Wallin (violin), Roland Pöntinen (piano)
BIS BIS-2419 (hybrid CD/SACD) 67:12 mins
In Brahms’s own violin version of the E flat Clarinet Sonata there’s a loss of the wide-ranging melodic lines at times; but, if you didn’t know, you could easily accept this as an original. It helps that Ulf Wallin’s rich tone favours the lower tessitura where much of the music still resides, and that there’s a flow to the rhythms and phrasing, with rubato affectionately shaped in the main: but sometimes I wish that he wouldn’t linger quite so much on first notes of phrases.
That’s something which is less apparent in the Second Sonata, where he and Roland Pöntinen bring out the few moments of aggression in the otherwise amiable first movement. And the contrast between the fast and slow sections in the second movement is perfectly judged, although the finale, after an exemplary start, loses steam towards the end, where I think there could be more attack and digging into the strings.
The Third Sonata is blessed with four movements perfectly contrasted in substance and length. Here the relationship between Wallin and Pöntinen, in unanimity of momentum and textural balance, helped by the warm, transparent recording, makes for a performance at once natural and controlled. The agitation of the final Presto is its well-earned conclusion, prefigured in the quirky third movement. Before that, the Adagio is emotional but not sentimental, and the ebb and flow of the initial Allegro is apparent from the outset.