Listening to this disc, it’s clear why the three Brahms violin sonatas are so beloved by violinists: they comprise some of the most beautiful writing committed to manuscript for the instrument. So persuasive is this account by young British violinist Jack Liebeck that it’s hard to tell who is gaining the fullest pleasure – the performer or listener. Which is of course as it should be.
The First Sonata was penned in 1879 when the composer was in his mid-40s. He then waited seven years before composing the final two. All three works are brimming with melodic and rhythmic riches – while the first two sonatas spill over with sun-suffused beauty, the third has noticeably more complex drama and emotion at its base. This does not mean that the first two do not carry profound passages; the First Sonata’s Adagio for instance is one of the most intense movements in Romantic musical literature. It is the favourite of many violinists, and it’s interesting to note that in fact this may have been Brahms’s least favourite. “Play it once”, he told a friend. “More it does not deserve…”
These works would serve as a perfect introduction to Brahms’s chamber music. They belie the fact that they come from the composer’s maturity; there is an essentially youthful sensibility here, of grace and lightness. Russian pianist Katya Apekisheva is an intensely sympathetic collaborator; this seems a partnership of twin minds. Here is 70 minutes of sublime music brought to us from the very pinnacle of the Romantic movement.