Notes and Editorial Reviews
Violin Sonatas Nos. 1 and 3.
Jana Voná?ková-Nováková (vn); Irina Kondratenko (pn)
SUPRAPHON 4170 (74:41)
Given the overly dense population of the Brahms violin sonatas in the listings and the number of entries vying for your dollars, it would be disingenuous of me to tell you that Jana Voná?ková-Nováková and Irina Kondratenko achieve results
comparable to those of a number of others I’ve reviewed in these pages, namely Stefan Jackiw and Max Levinson (34:4), Mark Fewer and Peter Longworth (34:5), Nikolaj Znaider and Yefim Bronfman (31:2), and Sergey and Lusine Khachatryan (37:3). I can state, however, that I did very much enjoy these performances by these two talented players, Voná?ková-Nováková is a native Czech from Prague and, until quite recently, the violinist in the Smetana Trio. Kondratenko is originally from Latvia.
Their readings of the two Brahms sonatas are clean, clear, and unaffected, with sensitive dialogue and knowing gestures between the two instruments especially well-projected. What makes this release special, though, and highly desirable, is the programming choice these artists have made to drop one of Brahms’s three given violin sonatas in favor of the group effort opus known as the “F-A-E” Sonata, to which Brahms contributed one movement, the scherzo.
Quite a few recordings give the three Brahms sonatas complete, and then throw in the composer’s scherzo movement from the “F-A-E” Sonata as a bonus. In fact, I usually complain when a new recording of the sonatas doesn’t include this scherzo, because it easily fits and has significance in Brahms’s output as the first piece he wrote for violin and piano. But recordings of all four movements of the “F-A-E” Sonata are extremely rare. The only other one I know of is by Jerrold Rubinstein and Dalia Ouziel on a two-disc Pavane set that dates back to the 1990s.
Just in case one or two readers may not know, the “F-A-E” Sonata was the brainstorm of Robert Schumann, who wanted to make a gift of the piece to famed violinist Joseph Joachim. Schumann enlisted his student Albert Dietrich to compose the first movement. He, Schumann, then composed the Romanze and the finale, while he entrusted the scherzo to the young composer he’d only just met, Johannes Brahms.
Some collaborative efforts work better than others, and this one is an example of a real success. If you’ve never heard the whole sonata before, you can’t know how seamlessly the four movements fit together, and how really beautiful it is as a piece of music. But now you have a chance to find out for yourself with this wonderful new recording of it. Even if this is not a Want List entry for the the two Brahms sonatas, it’s still urgently recommended for very comely performances of those works, and even more so, for the rare recording of the complete “F-A-E” Sonata.
FANFARE: Jerry Dubins
Works on This Recording
Sonata for Violin and Piano No. 1 in G Major, Op. 78: I. Vivace ma non troppo
Sonata for Violin and Piano No. 1 in G Major, Op. 78: II. Adagio
Sonata for Violin and Piano No. 1 in G Major, Op. 78: III. Allegro molto moderato
F.A.E. Sonata for Violin and Piano: I. Allegro
F.A.E. Sonata for Violin and Piano: II. Romanze
F.A.E. Sonata for Violin and Piano: III. Scherzo
F.A.E. Sonata for Violin and Piano: IV. Finale
Sonata for Violin and Piano No. 3 in D Minor, Op. 108: I. Allegro
Sonata for Violin and Piano No. 3 in D Minor, Op. 108: II. Adagio
Sonata for Violin and Piano No. 3 in D Minor, Op. 108: III. Un poco presto e con sentimento
Sonata for Violin and Piano No. 3 in D Minor, Op. 108: IV. Presto agitato
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