Maxim Rysanov

Brahms: Music for Viola

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Only the hardest of hardcore Brahms' fans usually know there exists a transcription of his Sonata for violin and piano, Op. 78, for viola and piano, done after the master's death by one of his publisher in-house arrangers. Here, that rarely heard work is coupled with the four more familiar viola transcriptions from Brahms' catalog to excellent effect by Maxim Rysanov. Rysanov is a talented player with a virtuoso technique, a muscular feel for rhythm, and a nuanced approach to interpretation. His playing is both idiomatic and individualistic. Accompanied with gusto by pianist Katya Apekisheva on the first disc, with panache by pianist Jacob Katsnelson on the second disc, along with violinist Boris Brovtsyn in Opus 40 and cellist Kristine Blaumane in Opus 114, Rysanov makes as convincing a case as possible for the transcriptions. Though there have been dozens of superlative performances of the viola versions of the Opus 120 Sonatas in the past -- one thinks immediately of the canonical recordings of Primrose, as well as the more recent Zuckerman and Power recordings -- this set will be mandatory listening for every hardcore Brahms aficionado. Onyx's digital sound is warm and evocative, though a bit recessed and a tad muted.

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