CD-1087(2) BRAHMS AND FRIENDS: MUSIC FOR VIOLA AND PIANO
CD 1: Brahms Sonatas for viola and piano: in F-minor, Op. 120 No. 1 and in Eb Major, Op. 120 No. 2. Joachim: Variations for viola and piano, Op.10. CD 2: Reinecke: Phantasiestücke for viola and piano, Op.43. Herzogenberg: Legenden for viola and piano, Op.62. Kiel: Drei Romanzen for viola and piano, Op.69. Fuchs: Sechs Phantasiestücke for viola and piano, Op.117. Sitt: Albumblätter for viola and piano, Op.39. Performed by the Zaslav Duo (Bernard Zaslav, viola and Naomi Zaslav, piano). AAD/DDD. Total time: 136:26. UPC# 0-17685-10872-3.
This set combines two internationally acclaimed performances of the Brahms Viola Sonatas with new recordings of rarely heard, neglected works by friends and colleagues of Brahms. Approximately half of the material has never before been recorded in any format. -- Since their Carnegie Recital Hall debut in 1962, Bernard and Naomi Zaslav, performing as the Zaslav Duo, have attained a high level of recognition for their concerts and recordings of the viola/piano repertory. Their recordings include Mr. Zaslav's own transcription of the Franck A major Violin Sonata and an entire album of the music of Dvorák, containing works originally written for violin, cello, or voice with piano.
The Duo has also performed many contemporary works, some written especially for them. Recordings by the Duo have received critical acclaim from Stereo Review ("Recording of Special Merit"), Devoteé magazine ("Debut Recording-Artist of the Year"), The STRAD, The New Records, The Los Angeles Times, American Record Guide, and Fanfare.
"Violists like to complain of the paucity of romantic music for their instrument; these two discs refute that contention. In addition to the famous two Brahms Sonatas, they feature unfamiliar, thoroughly romantic works, with romantically descriptive titles, by six of his "friends." All are clearly influenced by Brahms and Schumann; indeed, the absence of the latter's "Märchenbilder" (Fairy Tale Pictures) is conspicuous and inexplicable. In a substantial set of Variations by Joseph Joachim, a lovely theme is transformed and developed in inventively contrasting ways, including a somber contrapuntal piece and a Hungarian semi-improvisation. Three very Schumannesque "Phantasiestücke" (Fantasy Pieces) by Carl Reinecke, famous mostly for his "Undine" Flute Sonata, include a swooping Romance and a merry Humoresque; similar in style but technically more brilliant are "Drei Romanzen" (Three Romances) by Friedrich Kiel. Heinrich von Herzogenberg, husband of Brahms' close friend and musical correspondent Elisabeth, contributes three very Brahmsian, melodious, passionate "Legenden" (Legends); Hans Sitt's "Albumblätter" (Album Leaves) display inventive harmonies, spoken phrasing, and effective instrumental writing; the final piece ends in mid-air. Probably the best composer is Robert Fuchs, whose "Sechs Phantasiestücke" (Six Fantasy Pieces) have really adventurous harmonies, striking modulations, and strong contrasts of mood and character. However, the pieces all share a similar romantic style, and without a distinct individual compositorial voice, a certain sameness is unavoidable. Moreover, letting the Brahms Sonatas open the program seems unfair to his "friends," though this can hardly have been the players' intention. Violist Bernard Zaslav and his pianist-wife Naomi are most excellent and treat the music with total respect and love. The viola tone is beautiful, pure, warm and expressive, ensemble and balance are first-rate. Their approach is basically lyrical, broad, expansive, noble, inward, without external effects, even slides. The first Brahms Sonata is wistful, poetic, gracious, the second one smiles with autumnal benevolence. A worthy successor to the Zaslavs' Bloch disc on the same label, this is a splendid recording."
-Edith Eisler, amazon.com