Kremer and Afanassiev are considerable musicians who always make a point of rethinking the music, and though the results are unconventional, unalloyed musicality and lyricism abound.
Kremer and Afanassiev are quite another matter. They are considerable musicians who always make a point of rethinking the music, and here the results are unconventional. For instance, it will be noted that the three sonatas are spread over two CDs. The first movement of the D minor Sonata takes a full four minutes longer than do Suk and Katchen. In their slow tempos they stress the private world of Brahms. He comes across as deeply reserved and hesitant. Lyricism abounds, as does an unusually subdued treatment of quiet passages. TheRead more episodes of the music are very carefully delineated in character.
Kremer's control of bowing in the slow movement of the G major Sonata is miraculous, and yet I found the piu andante section with its unison octaves to be too ponderous. In the last movement here Afanassiev's shaping of the second theme is the height of sensitivity.
In the A major Sonata the violin has a sharper cutting edge, and I wondered whether he had changed instruments. The first movement is much more intense in mood until the slowness of the second subject comes as something of a shock. It has always struck me when listening to Kremer that he has a different appreciation of tempo than do most musicians, and for him the important thing is to allow the music to breathe as fully as possible.
Both players do full justice to the reflective aspect of Brahms and in the Adagio of the D minor Sonata they demonstrate that slow tempos are not chosen as a matter of course: in this wonderfully sustained movement they keep the pace going. The final two movements of this sonata present the most animated music yet and this change comes as a relief. I was surprised though that in the Scherzo Kremer largely ignores the composer's staccato markings.
Throughout these CDs the violin tone has just the right profile. The piano may be slightly reverberant, but the sound captures Afanassiev's extreme subtlety of pedalling. The Brahms performances, though unconventional, contain so much playing of unalloyed musicality that I have no hesitation in recommending this set.
-- James Methuen-Campbell, Gramophone [12/1988] Read less