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Briefly Noted: Refined Brahms

available at Amazon
Brahms, Violin Sonatas / C. Schumann, Romance No. 1, A. Ibragimova, C. Tiberghien

(released on August 30, 2019)
Hyperion CDA68200 | 71'06"
Both Russian-born violinist Alina Ibragimova and French pianist Cédric Tiberghien have impressed these ears in recital and on disc. Their recording and performing history as a duo goes back a decade, too, including discs devoted to Beethoven and Mozart. This year they have branched out into the Romantic period, first with a disc of French composers (Ysaye, Franck, Vierne, and Lili Boulanger) and now with the three violin sonatas of Brahms, officially released later this month.

Tiberghien's interpretation of Brahms has already struck me as on exactly the right wavelength, an assessment borne out by the transparency, smoldering burn, and rhythmic verve of his playing here. Ibragimova floats above the turbulence of the keyboard part with limpid tone, spot-on intonation, and impeccable awareness of contrapuntal interplay. In particular, the way that the two musicians let go together in the extended hemiola-complicated passages affords a suspended freedom from the barline that is just delightful.

There is force where force is needed, but always in balance between the two musicians so that neither has to over-compensate. The emotional vulnerability hidden in the violin sonatas, through references to some of the composer's intensely personal songs, comes across well. The program is capped by a lovely lagniappe, the first of Clara Schumann's Romances, op. 22. It is worth noting that Clara Schumann, who had received a manuscript copy of the first Brahms violin sonata from the composer in 1879, later told him “she wished the last movement to accompany her into the beyond.”

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