Those of you who have read this blog for a long time already know that in my next life, I will study the viola, and likely also the Cello!
Today, however, my topic is Ms. Kim Kashkashian who is one of my favorite Viola performers! And when she plays Brahms’ Viola sonatas, I am in heaven.
I always seek to hear more of the viola sound when I hear performances of string quartets. And often I am frustrated when the viola performer stays in the background. Not so in this CD, where the glorious sounds of Brahms can fill my world with the great sounds of nature, as painted by Brahms.
Accompanying Ms. Kashkashian is Robert Levin, piano.
The tracks on this CD are:
1. Sonata for Viola and Piano No.2 in E flat, Op.120 No.2
2. Sonata for Viola and Piano No.1 in F minor, Op.120
These works are utterly beautiful. Ms. Kashkashian does not simply “play” her viola, it is as though it is her voice, with beautiful phrasing, inflection and clarity of tone.
Kashkashian’s playing is secure, and she always preserves the big line of these works. Robert Levin’s piano playing is rich and sensitive, with an attention to the nuances that late Brahms piano music of all kinds ideally requires. As a partnership, Levin and Kashkashian are excellent.
Johannes Brahms was a terrific pianist; well before he published his own music, he gave concerts as a solo pianist and also in world – renowned performances with violinist Joseph Joachim. As such, the piano part in these sonatas is complex and meaningful, rather than being viewed as “accompaniment” for the viola.
My own sense, however, is that Robert Levin on this recording could have been somewhat more sensitive to the fact that it is easy for a concert grand piano to drown out even Kashkashian’s viola, if one gets carried away with Brahms’ genius as a composer…
Below is a video from a long time ago in which Kim kashkashian is coaching how to play the Brahms sonata: