The Strad's experts evaluate the latest string recordings
Brahms: Viola Sonatas op.120. Schubert: Sonata in A minor D821 ‘Arpeggione’
Generally pleasing accounts of works originally for other instruments
Thursday, 20 June 2013
Robin Ireland (viola) Tim Horton (piano)
Brahms & Schubert
Nimbus Alliance NI 6210
The latest recording from this long-standing, perfectly attuned partnership was made at Potton Hall recording studio in Suffolk ‘in front of an invited audience’ that duly applauds at the end of each piece but is otherwise perfectly silent. The booklet reveals that material from the dress rehearsal and a patch-up session was also used, and there is indeed the odd audible edit in a recording of otherwise excellent quality.
Every violist tackling the Brahms sonatas has to decide whether to follow the originally published version, which the composer himself found ‘clumsy and unsatisfactory’, or to restore the higher clarinet pitches, either wholly or in part. In his engaging booklet notes, Robin Ireland mentions an online article by James Creitz that advocates the latter option, so it comes as a surprise that he sticks mostly to the former. Both performances are nicely turned, with elegant and flexible phrasing and both instruments well balanced, although I wish the players had followed Brahms’s frequent sotto voce markings more assiduously.
In Schubert’s ‘Arpeggione’ Sonata, a piece requiring similar choices from the interpreters, Ireland and pianist Tim Horton achieve a beautiful balance between Viennese Gemütlichkeit and Romantic drama, astutely taking advantage of the exposition repeat for an increase of expressive power.
Carlos María Solare
From the July 2013 issue. Subscribe to The Strad or download our digital edition as part of a 30-day free trial.