Tabea Zimmermann / Kirill Gerstein

Brahms, Clarke, Vieuxtemps: Sonatas for Viola & Piano

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The sometimes teased and frequently underestimated viola has rarely found its way into an album beautifully programmed and impeccably executed as this Myrios Classics disc featuring violist Tabea Zimmermann and pianist Kirill Gerstein. The program opens with the 1919 Viola Sonata of Rebecca Clarke, a work that lay dormant for decades but has since become one of the most celebrated sonatas in the viola's repertoire. Clarke's writing combines sweeping lyricism with hints of impressionism to create an intimately moving, captivating composition. Though known largely for his virtuoso violin compositions, Vieuxtemps' Op. 36 Viola Sonata combines fewer elements of bravura with writing that truly highlights the viola's ideal sound and emotive abilities. Last on the program is Brahms' well-known Second Viola Sonata (originally scored for clarinet or viola). In this, the first volume of what will hopefully be a lengthy series of albums devoted to the viola sonata repertoire, Zimmermann proves herself to be not only one of the most remarkable viola players in memory, but also a consummate, sensitive musician of the highest caliber. Her velvety, supple tone projects clearly without ever becoming nasal or forced; her dazzling technique and precise intonation rival even the best violinists. Add to this a keen interpretive sense that guides listeners through this beautiful repertoire, and something truly special results. Gerstein's equally warm, inviting playing is rich and authoritative, never covering the viola while at the same time not backing away from full forte playing. Myrios' clear, robust, spacious SACD sound is the cherry on top of an unreservedly recommended album.

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