Michael Jelden / Fabiana Biasini

Brahms, Schubert Sonaten

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With three world-premiere recordings, this disc will be mandatory listening for anyone interested in Brahms or Schubert. Although the works themselves are thoroughly familiar, these particular transcriptions of the works are not. Since the instrument for which it was intended has all but ceased to be played, Schubert's Arpeggione Sonate has long been performed in transcriptions for cello or viola, but this is the first time an arrangement for violin has been recorded. In the case of Brahms' Sonatas, Op. 120, while the original works were published as both viola and clarinet sonatas, Brahms himself also prepared violin transcriptions of the works, transcriptions which have not previously been recorded. Performance on the violin completely changes the characters of all three works. Where Brahms' sonatas usually sound warm, mellow, and melancholy as viola or clarinet works, with the higher tessitura of the violin they sound hot, intense, and passionate. And where Schubert's Sonata always sounds deep, rich, and soulful as a cello or viola work, on a viola it sounds heroic, driven, and heartfelt. Of course, part of the reason they sound this way is because that's the way violinist Michael Jelden plays them. A powerful, sometimes aggressive violinist, Jelden attacks all three works with tremendous force, wringing the drama out of every line. Jelden in ably supported by pianist Fabiana Biasini, who goads him, consoles him, and never lets him forget that she's a full partner in the performance. All this may or may not be entirely appropriate for Brahms and Schubert, but until another recording of these transcriptions comes along, listeners will have to make up their minds based on the evidence of this disc. Edition Hera's sound is big, close, and a bit raw.

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