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CD Review

Johannes Brahms

Sonatas for Violin & Piano

  • Violin Sonata #1 in G Major, Op. 78
  • Violin Sonata #2 in A Major, Op. 100
  • Violin Sonata #3 in D minor, Op. 108
Arnaud Sussmann, violin
Orion Weiss, piano
Telos Music TLS-174
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This is a terribly frustrating release. I praised Orion Weiss in his excellent survey of Gershwin works for piano and orchestra on Naxos (8.559705), and now that Naxos is distributing Telos Music, I snapped this up with little hesitation. Having been less than enthusiastic about TLS-175, I worked backwards to this release. All three of Brahms' magnificent sonatas for piano and violin are here, but they don't sound nearly as good as they need to in a very crowded market.

The biggest liability is violinist Arnaud Sussmann, who doesn't appear to have a cogent vision for these works. The Sonata #3 fares best, it's the most carefully shaped of the three and benefits from Weiss' firm presence to compliment Sussmanm's fine fiddling. Unfortunately, while the prior two works are technically acceptable, they are coolly rendered and oddly detached. Only occasionally does Sussmann seem inclined to sing with his instrument, and otherwise is content to clip phrases here and there. If the playing had a more individual viewpoint, I might be more apt to forgive what comes across as bland, and even a little bored. The Sonata #2 opens unattractively, though the work does improve as time goes on. Still, there are so many superb choices in this music, that I can't recommend this one.

Pianist Orion Weiss brings the same seriousness of purpose to Brahms as he did to Gershwin, as any great artist must. Still, I don't feel that he loves this music as much as his other projects; he's curiously straight-laced throughout most of the program. I had high hopes for this disc, but in the end this is an also-ran, despite fine sound and decent notes.

Copyright © 2015, Brian Wigman