While noting the Scherzo that Brahms contributed to the collaborative FAE Sonata is not included – a pity, not because there is room but because it’s a good piece, and is often a makeweight in such programmes (live or recorded) – the well-established team of Tasmin Little and Piers Lane make vibrant music with Brahms’s three Violin Sonatas, none of them premiered by Joachim, the composer at the piano for the latter two.
It’s not all plain-sailing, for one might query Little’s tone occasionally – whether strident in the upper register or over-stressed at other times – and regret that Lane is not slightly more in the aural picture: he is a sensitive and supportive pianist, and a big personality when required, but just a little more presence when playing quietly would have been welcome; after all, these are duo-Sonatas, the original title-pages identifying the piano first.
That’s about it as far as brickbats are concerned, for these are lively, alive, impassioned and searching accounts, tempos tending to be a little quicker than is usual, such as in the first movement of the G-major, the Vivace marking noted and a dance-like quality imparted, without denuding pathos, while the Adagio is explored fully and the Finale is all song, ideally paced and beautifully phrased.
Of the remaining Sonatas, Opus 100 is congenial and intimate, if not without those stabs to the heart, emotional privacies, that are a hallmark of these works, all through, with true illumination in the Finale that is marked Allegretto grazioso (quasi Andante), the bracketed qualification brought into play persuasively. The four-movement D-minor Sonata (the others are in three) brings the most probing and volatile address, music with an edge and shadows. The soulful slow movement is especially eloquent, the intermezzo-like third is fleeting in its changes, and the Finale is suitably fiery and restless. At no point during this recital does one suspect these artists being fazed by the red light being on, a marriage of keen preparation and concert-hall spontaneity.