Nikolaj Znaider / Yefim Bronfman

Brahms: Complete Works for Violin and Piano

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Brahms: Complete Works for Violin and Piano Review

by Mike D. Brownell

Time to make a little extra room on your shelf devoted to your favorite albums. This collaboration between violinist Nikolai Znaider and pianist Yefim Bronfman performing Brahms' complete works for violin and piano is not only one of the best renditions of these works in at least a decade, but is also a shining example of truly equal partnership in chamber music. Of course, Bronfman made a recording of these sonatas with the late Isaac Stern, but with all due respect to the departed master, this recording is far superior. The richness and warmth of Bronfman's sound simply cannot be improved upon. In many ways, the beauty of Bronfman's sound is reminiscent of Rubinstein but without any of the technical shortcomings. Rather, Bronfman is at once a technical master of his instrument, with each note carefully placed and given a life all its own, and he is one of the most consummately musical performers alive today. Znaider is a splendid complement to Bronfman. Possessing an equal command of both his instrument and the emotional depth of the music, Znaider's sound is clear and projecting while always warm and pleasing. RCA's recorded sound is also magnificently deep and intimate, capturing every nuance of the performance. The only minor qualm comes from the liner notes, which unforgivably omit bios of the two musicians; they also curiously choose to use the uncommon subtitles ("Regen" for Op. 78 and "Thun" for Op. 100), which Brahms would likely have vehemently opposed as he was never one to include anything the least bit programmatic in his works. Nonetheless, this is absolutely a must-have album.

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