Notes and Editorial Reviews
It was the violinist Joachim who suggested to Brahms that he should adapt his recently written two Clarinet Sonatas, Op. 120 for the viola, and what we have are a couple of works that reveal a tamed Brahms, one who is concerned with purely beautiful ideas. Lyricism is ever-present. Nobuko Imai's 1690 Guarnerius is free from that nasal tone than can make the instrument irritating, and her whole approach to the idiom is without mannerism. Her songful and emotionally understated line melds well with Roger Vignoles's intelligent and superbly capable piano-playing. But unfortunately there is a caveat: the piano sound has such an obvious acoustic of an empty church, that one has to tolerate a somewhat swimmy and reverberant tone.
Nevertheless, the playing is so good that the disc holds its own. Throughout Imai leaves much of the interpretation to the listener, and her subtle range of nuance, as in the lighter bowing required in the Andante of the F minor Sonata, lends a grace to everything she does. The humour of the finale of this work is nicely caught without any coyness.
The French team on Erato are hampered by a boxed-in and lifeless piano tone. Causse is equally expressive as Imai, but he is a more energetic player, although the duo do take a more expansive attitude towards tempos.
The fill-up on the Chandos disc features Schumann's late Marchenbilder which, though far from being masterworks, are full of harmonic twists. In the fourth number I admired the way that Imai and Vignoles managed to keep a hold on the rather fragile line of the music. Altogether, this is a disc of real merit regarding the actual performances.
-- James Methuen-Campbell, Gramophone [10/1987]
Works on This Recording
Viola Sonata No. 2 in E flat major, Op. 120: I. Allegro amabile
Viola Sonata No. 2 in E flat major, Op. 120: II. Allegro appassionato
Viola Sonata No. 2 in E flat major, Op. 120: III. Andante con moto
Marchenbilder for Viola and Piano, Op. 113: I. Nicht schnell
Marchenbilder for Viola and Piano, Op. 113: II. Lebhaft
Marchenbilder for Viola and Piano, Op. 113: III. Rasch
Marchenbilder for Viola and Piano, Op. 113: IV. Langsam, mit melancholischem Ausdruck
Viola Sonata No. 1 in F minor, Op. 120: I. Allegro appassionato
Viola Sonata No. 1 in F minor, Op. 120: II. Andante un poco adagio
Viola Sonata No. 1 in F minor, Op. 120: III. Allegretto grazioso
Viola Sonata No. 1 in F minor, Op. 120: IV. Vivace
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