Emmanuel Pahud / Yefim Bronfman

Brahms: Sonatas, Op. 120; Reinecke: Sonata for Flute & Piano, Op. 167

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In the otherwise excellent liner notes for this disc coupling Johannes Brahms' Opus 120 Sonatas with Carl Reinecke's "Undine" Sonata, John Warrack glides gently over the disc's central problem: "Brahms published an alternative version (of the Sonatas) for viola, and...there is no reason to suppose that he would have objected to a sensitively made transcription for the flute." Unfortunately, there is likewise no reason to suppose he would have approved a transcription for flute, either. As demonstrated in this superbly played performance by flutist Emmanuel Pahud accompanied by pianist Yefim Bronfman, Brahms' sonatas, while wonderfully suited for the rich, warm, complex tone of the clarinet, and well suited for the dark, sweet, full tone of the viola, are utterly unsuited for the pure, clear, thin tone of the flute. Even Pahud's brilliant technique and sympathetic expressivity cannot make the music sound right on the flute; instead, it sounds weak, anemic, and wholly lacking of the lush, autumnal tone of the originals. Fortunately, these problems don't exist for Reinecke's Sonata, which was originally -- and brilliantly -- written for flute. While Reinecke's themes and forms cannot match Brahms' for substance and meaning, the "Undine" Sonata is a lovely and appealing work that receives a bright and beautiful performance by Pahud with Bronfman. Produced by Stephen Johns for EMI, the recordings are close but not too close, clear but not too clear, and vivid but not too in-your-face.

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