Brahms: Horn Trio, Op. 40; Violin Sonata, Op. 78; Fantasien, Op. 116

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COMPOSERS: Brahms
LABELS: Harmonia Mundi
ALBUM TITLE: Brahms
WORKS: Horn Trio, Op. 40; Violin Sonata, Op. 78; Fantasien, Op. 116
PERFORMER: Isabelle Faust (violin), Teunis van der Zwart (natural horn), Alexander Melnikov (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: HMC 901981

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Brahms specifically wrote his Horn Trio for the Waldhorn, the old natural horn which he played as a boy, not the modern valve-horn which he called the ‘brass viola’. This is by no means the first recording to use a period Waldhorn (there has been Andrew Clark on EMI, and, though now deleted, Lowell Greer, also on Harmonia Mundi); but the large Lorenz horn from 1845 that Teunis van der Zwart plays here, in concert with Alexander Melnikov’s 1875 Bösendorfer and Isabelle Faust’s gut-strung 1704 Stradivarius, makes a stunningly Romantic sound in the spacious, resonant acoustic that Harmonia Mundi’s studio recording has provided. It’s a superb version of the piece by any standard, the slow movements absolutely saturated in intense Romantic melancholy but fleet and agile in scherzo and finale. The intimacy and melancholy of

the Adagio mesto is deeply moving: one feels brought very near to the kind of sound Brahms always had

in mind, which is the avowed intention of the performers.

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Faust and Melnikov are scarcely less revelatory in the G major Violin Sonata, one of the most beautiful accounts to come my way in recent years; and the Bösendorfer does not betray its age but rather provides subtle tone-colour and an unusual fleetness in passagework for Melnikov’s deeply felt approach to the Op. 116 Fantasien. Very generous in terms of its duration, this is a disc where one truly feels every note has been given the space to make its effect. Definitely a release for Brahms connoisseurs!