Leonard Schranze

Brahms: Songs and Sonatas for Viola & Piano

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Brahms: Songs and Sonatas for Viola & Piano Review

by Mike D. Brownell

Brahms was certainly no stranger nor opponent to the idea of artful substitution of instruments, particularly in his chamber music. Many of his works contain notes allowing for various exchanges between cello, viola, clarinet, and French horn. The two sonatas of Op. 120, among his last published works, were intended from the beginning for performance by either viola or clarinet. These two "standard" works for the viola are accompanied on this album by transcriptions of the Op. 78 Sonata (originally for violin in G major) and two late songs. No credits could be found as to who made these arrangements. Violist Lenny Schranze is accompanied by pianist John David Peterson in this somewhat unappealing offering of these great compositions. For starters, Schranze's tempos are extremely slow and often appear to drag even slower as movements progress lending to the sense that they may never end. Other aspects of these performances are no more acceptable. Schranze's intonation is problematic at best and wholly unacceptable at its worst; his tone is uneven across strings and rather small. Peterson's playing suffers because of this, and the usually full, rich piano score is played with extreme caution and timidity to allow he underpowered viola to be heard. With so many other options available for recordings of the Op. 120 sonatas, this one is probably best left on the shelf.

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