Brahms: Complete Works For Violin & Piano / Arabella Steinbacher, Robert Kulek

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This is a hybrid Super Audio CD playable on both regular and Super Audio CD players.

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Arabella Steinbacher and Robert Kulek bring to the Brahms violin sonatas a refined understanding, subtle expression, and blended beauty of tone.

Though sometimes thought of as a Romantic master who scored thickly and richly, be it orchestral, piano, vocal or chamber music, Brahms often gives you music of luminous subtlety especially in his harmonic and melodic writing, and this luminosity benefits greatly from clarity of performance and high production standards both of which are found in this PentaTone release. Arabella Steinbacher and Robert Kulek bring to the Brahms violin sonatas a refined understanding, subtle expression, and blended beauty of tone on both violin and keyboard. Likewise, the clarity is greatly served by optimal microphone placement and recording techniques.

The "FAE Sonata" is included along with Violin Sonatas Nos. 1, 2, and 3. The Booth-Stradivarius (if that is indeed the instrument Steinbacher plays on this recording) has a wonderfully rich range of color, allowing the violinist to glide gracefully to the higher registers with full, bright timbre and on rare occasion bite into lower dark tones in forte with almost an audible crunch (which she never overdoes).

Even the earliest of these sonatas require musicians of insight and maturity, which Steinbacher and Kulek have. The violin tone, expressively lyrical, is also at times slightly brittle but not bitter. Perhaps bitterness is not called for in these beautiful sonatas. But somberness and joy are within the emotional range, and Steinbacher's violin is well within reach of both. She and Kulek also reveal insights into the compositional techniques Brahms utilizes to justify or propel his music. Their playing sings through the occasional complexities, such as inverted counterpoint, imitation, deceptive cadences, and chromatic modulations, all of which in Brahms are a natural expression of the music and not just added on.

Accompanist Kulek's piano has beautiful round tones that seem to evoke colors, and indeed color of expression is an optimum word as he shapes Brahms's often autumnal phrases with artistry while matching Steinbacher's decrescendos, phrases, and cadences beautifully. The musicianship makes this disc an excellent introduction to the Brahms violin sonatas.

By the same token, for those familiar with these works, this duet does not force eccentricities of style upon you in order to offer for the sake of novelty a different or alternative take on Brahms. The attitude is professional and not so much novel. They play so as to facilitate the composer's works, creating expressive and sometimes troubled music that exists as naturally as trees in a forest. Recommended.

- Greg La Traille, ArkivMusic.com

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Since her extraordinary and unexpected debut in Paris in March 2004, when she stepped in on short notice for an ailing colleague and performed the Beethoven Violin Concerto with the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France under Sir Neville Marriner, German violinist Arabella Steinbacher has become a fast-rising star on the international concert scene.

"I am incredibly happy to have the chance to play on the Booth-Stradivarius, which the Nippon Foundation generously loaned to me. This instrument has also a very warm and dark sound, almost like a Guarneri." - Arabella Steinbacher


Product Description:


  • Catalog Number: PTC5186367


  • UPC: 827949036767


  • Label: Pentatone


  • Composer: Johannes Brahms


  • Performer: Arabella Steinbacher, Robert Kulek