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Brahms, Clarke & Vieuxtemps - viola sonatas

Tabea Zimmermann & Kirill Gerstein, piano

myrios/classics MYR004

A deepy satisfying viola recital by my favourite violist of today, albeit I've only heard her play live as a member of the Arcanto Quartet, and solo on disc in Penderecki's concerto.

She is partnered well by Russian born pianist Kirill Gerstein in a programme that proves an ideal vehicle and is truly satisfying as a recital sequence to play straight through.

The Clarke emerges as a masterpiece, Viewtemps as less derivative than one might have expected, and the Brahms Eb as one of that composer's most precious chamber works (I really prefer the 'clarinet sonatas' in the viola arrangements, especially the darker F minor one).

The playing of this duo is so instinctively musical and technically assured that it makes one amazed to reflect that the viola as a solo instrument had to be practically re-invented in UK by Lionel Tertis, who played a role for his instrument akin to Casals for the cello and Segovia for the guitar.

Zimmermann plays a modern viola and Gerstein a Steinway D piano; beautifully prepared, but to my taste a little too mellow and 'plummy'; I found myself wishing he'd used a late 19th C instrument, c.f. Daniel Grimwood for Liszt, but this is a personal preoccupation of mine, having long deplored the hold over pianists maintained by Steinway*, rather like Rupert Murdoch's over the British media (q.v. Vince Cable's indiscretion)...

Peter Grahame Woolf

* - - Steinway had a stranglehold on the upscale piano market - - concert pianists had to agree to use only Steinway pianos in both their professional and personal lives, and in exchange were guaranteed that a piano would be made available to them for both recital and practice sessions.