BRAHMS Violin Sonatas Nos 2 & 3 SCHUMANN 3 Romances
Having already recorded Brahms’s First Sonata, Op 78, Isabelle Faust and Alexander Melnikov complete the set with a performance of the composite FAE Sonata (in which Schumann, Brahms and Albert Dietrich joined forces to provide a welcome for Joseph Joachim), plus Schumann’s Three Romances, originally for oboe and piano. The FAE performance is strikingly successful, avoiding any suggestion of a disparate and possibly unequal work. Dietrich’s long first movement is played with particular intensity, Melnikov attacking the development section with a spirit that anticipates the drama of Brahms’s Scherzo. The Trio of the Scherzo has a gentle, tender quality that recalls the mood of Schumann’s lyrical slow movement. And no one would imagine how awkwardly the violin’s filigree ornamentation in the finale’s coda is written; played as Faust does here, we realise what an inspiring conclusion Schumann has devised.
The Brahms sonata performances are sharply etched and full of detailed expressive insights. Some listeners may find Melnikov’s style too forceful and hard-edged (certainly Yuja Wang’s sforzandos have a more mellifluous quality) but it all contributes to the vivid, compelling character of these performances. There are places where Faust reduces her tone to a whisper, for instance in Op 108’s first movement, and while this can be extremely effective, it’s perhaps occasionally overdone. The Allegro amabile opening movement of Op 100 impressively follows the tradition of Busch and Serkin in making us aware throughout that it’s a true allegro, with amabile expressed through character rather than tempo; recent accounts generally adopt a more leisurely approach. Other highlights of the issue include a wonderful expression of the combination of wistfulness and capriciousness in Op 108’s third movement, while in the preceding Adagio there’s an unusually intense feeling of concentration. Altogether, these are enthralling, lovely performances.