American Record Guide: The Brahms Project: Viola Sonatas & Songs


These are the finest sonatas ever written for the viola, but they weren’t written for the viola. Brahms had actually retired from composing before he wrote these works, but he was inspired to resume when he heard the clarinetist Richard Muhlfeld in 1891. He proceeded to write several works for Muhlfeld – first a trio, then a quintet, and finally these sonatas in 1894. The arrangements for viola were an after-thought. But these are now the cornerstone of the viola sonata repertoire, heard more often in that guise than in the original.

Peter Barsonyi is professor of music at the Liszt Academy of Music in Budepest and the University of Performing Arts in Graz. He is a fine instrumentalist. He plays in tune and has good control of his vibrato. These are very fine performances. I hear nothing to object to, but at the same time, nothing really seizes my attention in the sonatas. The songs, written for voice and viola, are also very good performances – better than most – but again not the most memorable. Peter Frankl is the best thing going for this program, as he knows how to produce an opulent sound without covering his partners.

Joseph Magil

Source: American Record Guide

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