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Notes and Editorial Reviews
Violin Sonatas: No. 1 in G; No. 2 in A; No. 3 in d.
No. 1 in f; No. 2 in E?
Ulf Wallin (vn); Roland Pöntinen (pn)
ARTE NOVA 592250 (2 CDs: 124:35)
“Timing,” as they say, “is everything.” And ‘tis a pity too; for had this very fine set of Brahms’s complete works for violin and piano not
arrived in the same batch of new releases to be reviewed as the Nikolaj Znaider/Yefim Bronfman RCA CD, I would have had no hesitation in giving Ulf Wallin and Roland Pöntinen top billing.
Wallin has distinguished himself with a number of outstanding recordings of adventurous repertoire for the exploratory cpo label, including violin concertos by Wilhelm Peterson-Berger and Atterberg, and the stunning E-Minor Violin Sonata by Hans Pfitzner. Pöntinen has also busied himself in the recording studio, committing to disc a highly diverse repertoire, which coincidentally happens to include performances of the original versions of Brahms’s clarinet sonatas with clarinetist Martin Fröst (see Michael Fine’s review in 29:5).
Like almost everything that comes to us on the Arte Nova label, U.S. distribution now courtesy of the Allegro Corporation, these recordings are not new. They were originally made between 1995 and 1997. You would not know that, though, from the freshly minted sound. In every detail that matters—gorgeous playing, polished technique, communicativeness and bonding between Wallin and Pöntinen, and interpretive insight into these works from the latter part and the end of Brahms’s life—these are exquisitely refined and heartfelt readings that I am happy to have share shelf space with the two-dozen or so other versions of these works I have in my collection.
And, as an added bonus, for less than the cost of Znaider’s and Bronfman’s full-priced single disc, you get a two-disc set that also contains the two clarinet sonatas in arrangements for violin that Brahms made himself in 1895. They are rarely played, and while I still prefer to hear them on clarinet or viola—the violin being insufficiently dark in tone to bring out the deep forested texture of these works—they are interesting to hear, and they validate Arte Nova’s titling of the release, Brahms’s “Complete Works for Violin and Piano.”
Perhaps my weakness is in being so enamored of this music that it is hard for me to find fault with any recording of it that comes my way. I find something to love about each of them. And so, chalk it up to a lack of discernment brought on by a compulsive infatuation, but I find myself urging you to consider Wallin and Pöntinen, not in place of Znaider and Bronfman, but in addition to them.
FANFARE: Jerry Dubins
Works on This Recording
Average Customer Review: ( 1 Customer Review )
lovely performances June 7, 2014
By D. McArthur (Gretna, LA) See All My Reviews
"From the beginning I was put off by an ugly cover photo. The performances however are lovely. The sound is clear and well balanced. There is no need to hesitate in purchasing this recording. Enjoy!!!"