Leonidas Kavakos / Yuja Wang

Brahms: The Violin Sonatas

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This cycle of Brahms' violin sonatas presents two of the more charismatic artists on the current scene, neither of them particularly known for Brahms. It works quite a bit better than you might expect. In a way pianist Yuja Wang is the star of the show. The Brahms sonatas still carry a trace of the violin sonata's origins with a violin accompanying the keyboard, and it is often the pianist who leads and sets the tone; in many movements Wang establishes a warmth and depth that are a bit out of character with her usual flamboyant style. She then plays nicely off of Kavakos' lyrical lines with her own more urgent style. The deeper logic of these works might be better served by a more neutral approach, but the overall impression is of two distinct personalities in conversation about the music, and that's the chamber music ideal. An added attraction is the presence of the scherzo from the early F-A-E Sonata, a work collaboratively written by Brahms, Schumann, and Albert Dietrich; Brahms' scherzo is a sort of essay in the Beethoven short-short-short long motif, and it allows Wang to really take command. An enjoyable outing that shows Wang, especially, developing talents beyond her comfort zone. Overly closely miked sound detracts from the experience.

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