Leonidas Kavakos and Yuja Wang here give a hearty, if rather cold, performance of Brahms’ much-loved violin sonatas. Wang has proven her virtuoso skills with her previous recital CDs, but this is the first recording she’s made of chamber music. It’s concerning, then, that this release feels a little like star players working well together, but not connecting as deeply as befits the repertoire.
More could be made of many of the most ethereal moments in the music (some of them seem to pass without notice), and there’s an almost palpable sense of relief from the players when the big tunes kick in. Take, for example, the piano’s turn at the theme partway through the first movement of the Violin Sonata in G, accompanied by a delicate pizzicato violin. In other recordings, this return to the theme is a hushed and delicate remembrance, almost magical in its simplicity. Here, it’s merely pretty.
Similar issues arise in the other sonatas. The A Major’s grazioso third movement sounds wooden, with none of the grace and lightness of touch that, for example, Arthur Grumiaux and György Sebo˝k give it. This is very heavy Brahms, then, played solidly and weightily. Kavakos and Wang fare better in Brahms’ more intense moments, with plenty of muscle in the C Minor scherzo from the collaborative F.A.E. Sonata. The disc is closed with a rather anticlimactic arrangement of the famous Wiegenlied, played serviceably. (Paul Ballam-Cross)