Anthony Marwood / Aleksandar Madzar

Schumann: Violin Sonatas

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Robert Schumann's three sonatas for violin and piano were rarely played until the end of the 20th century, but they have gradually come to be seen as complex, original, rather thorny works that must have made a great impact on the young Brahms with their combination of expressiveness and thematic unity. Like Mozart and Beethoven, Schumann studied Bach's music closely toward the end of his creative life, and those studies are evident in a certain soberness as well as the overall thematic economy. Yet the works are full of highly original devices such as the extended pizzicato passage in the slow movement of the Violin Concerto No. 2 in D minor, Op. 121, of 1853. Violinist Anthony Marwood and pianist Aleksándar Madzar, who have recorded Brahms' sonatas in this same series, do well with these in this live performance from London's Wigmore Hall (there is hardly a crowd noise to be heard). In the outer movements, which have a restless, difficult quality, he may be a bit too by-the-book (or by-the-notes) for some; he couldn't be called an effusive player, and the odd, extremely virtuosic Violin Sonata No. 3 in A minor, WoO 27, which even Clara Schumann suppressed (it was published after Schumann's death), doesn't quite take wing here. Throughout, there's a reserve in Marwood's playing that may work perfectly well for some composers (like Mendelssohn) but seems somehow at odds with Schumann. On the other hand, the performances do have the quality of delving carefully into some rather difficult works, and they're worth hearing for the growing cadre of late Schumann fans.

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