Jaime Laredo / Jean-Bernard Pommier / Leonard Rose

Brahms: Violin Sonatas; Cello Sonatas

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Originally recorded in 1982 and 1983, respectively, this two-disc set of the Brahms violin and cello sonatas features two well-known, celebrated string artists: violinist Jaime Laredo and cellist Leonard Rose. Pianist Jean-Bernard Pommier joins both Laredo and Rose, but that is where the similarities between the two discs end. Laredo's playing is as technically precise as would be expected, but his approach to these sonatas is uncharacteristically brash and aggressive. His sound often sounds extremely forced and shrill, and his right arm becomes quite vertical and angular at times. The overall recorded sound on disc 1 doesn't help matters as it lacks in sufficient bass definition from the piano; both instruments sound dull and muted. Rose's playing on disc 2 is much richer, warmer, and relaxed. While Rose generally prefers to lay back on tempos while Laredo drives forward, his playing never has a sense of dragging. Overall sound quality on this disc is superior, as well; both the lower end of the piano and bottom strings of the cello are more robust and there's more vibrancy and color in general. Pommier's playing is consistently reliable throughout both discs, with a keen sense of balance and pacing that matches both instruments nicely. This set is a good choice for the cello sonatas, but listeners could certainly find a selection with a more desirable sound quality for the violin sonatas.

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