This recording of Brahms' viola sonatas, featuring violist Ettore Causa and pianist Marc Pantillon, stands out in an already crowded discography by pairing the well-loved works with Causa's own arrangements of six of Brahms' lieder for viola and piano. Causa's arrangements are clean, idiomatic, and well aware of the challenges involved. By choosing mostly later songs written for middle or low voices and taking a relatively simple approach to arrangement, letting the viola take the vocal line while keeping the original piano parts essentially intact, he preserves the considerable charms of the original works while highlighting the distinctive tone of the viola at the same time. Causa has a warm, subtle tone; a prodigious technique; and a real feel for Brahms' style, and he deploys these qualities with taste, intelligence, and a fair helping of soul. Pantillon is a fine pianist and an excellent accompanist, and he provides Causa with the support he needs to succeed. Though longtime listeners will no doubt already have one or more than one favorite recording of the sonatas -- perhaps the classic Primrose, possibly the more recent Zukerman or Imai -- but they may still want to try this disc simply for the sake of hearing Causa's lovely lieder arrangements. Claves' digital sound is very clear and detailed, but a bit lean and lacking in depth.
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AllMusic Review by James Leonard
|Sonata for clarinet (or viola) & piano No. 1 in F minor, Op. 120/1|
|Sonata for clarinet (or viola) & piano No. 2 in E flat major, Op. 120/2|