Christian Tetzlaff / Lars Vogt

Schumann: Violin Sonatas

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Robert Schumann's late music has undergone a revival, with its main traits of monothematicism, dense, close motivic work, and a certain spiky unpredictability having been redefined from faults into virtues. A good way, perhaps, to think about works like these three violin sonatas is that the young Brahms, visiting the Schumann household and mooning over the unavailable Clara, might easily have heard them and been directly influenced by them. Indeed, these pieces have the kind of long-range connections you find in Brahms, combined with a somewhat gnarly level of local detail, without the memorable tunes of Schumann's earlier works. Consider the motivically pregnant opening chords of the Violin Sonata No. 2 in D minor, Op. 121, which Brahms could easily have written. The movement is not immediately appealing, but it yields its logic on repeated hearings. Recordings of them are not overly abundant, and violinist Christian Tetzlaff and his usual Romantic-music duet partner, pianist Lars Vogt, explicitly state their intention of reviving the music here. They succeed in general, for Tetzlaff is an excellent fit with this repertory. He has a rich, deliberate tone, never emotionally overwrought, that seems to delve calmly into this music's complexities, and Vogt is unfazed by the somewhat unidiomatic piano writing in the Violin Sonata No. 3, left unpublished perhaps precisely because it did not showcase Clara at her best. With fine sound Ondine's engineers, working in a Bremen studio, this release is recommended to anyone interested in the new directions in Schumann's music in the years before he succumbed to mental illness, in Brahms, or in the chamber music of the Romantics in general.

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