Monday, 18 July 2011

An unusual day saw me listening to Brahms, Dvorak and Mahler, hardly my normal daily fare. The Dvorak four pieces, plus the E minor Mazurek, were played by Josef Suk and very fine they were, too. I particularly admired Suk's bowing, articulation and immaculate double-stops in the Mazurek. Then on to Suk and Julius Katchen in their classic 1967 account of the three Brahms violin & piano sonatas, and what particularly struck me here was the fact that throughout the ten movements of the three sonatas I did not once query the tempi set by Suk and Katchen. The “ever-slower” fashion did not catch up with Suk.

But it certainly did with Katarina Karnéus and Susanna Mälkki in Mahler. The Kindertotenlieder dragged on for ever. The Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen were better, after the first song, but brakes were applied sharply wherever there was the slightest opportunity. I do not know the Fünf Rückert Lieder well enough to pronounce on the tempi, but they often sounded very slow indeed. Which is all a great pity, since Mälkki did a good job with the orchestra, BIS produced an excellent recording and Karnéus has an attractive voice. And I like Mahler's vocal music. In the modern musical world, slow bespeaks with feeling, soulful, reverence, deep emotions. But go back sixty years or so, and one realises that most slow music benefits from being taken at a “proper” tempo (which takes us back to Suk and Katchen).

1 comment:

Lee said...

The Suk/Katchen and the Goldstein are the top 2 picks for Brahms VS. The pinnacle for sonata playing for these 2 superb musician/violinists. Thanks to you - I have the Goldstein. A very much treasured possession.