Kremer's Brahms Violin Sonata No. 1
In preparing for my upcoming performance of this piece, I'm surveying some great recordings and videos. There are so many different interpretations, but this performance given by Gidon Kremer is unique and I think it worth some discussion. What do you think? Thoughtful? Too slow?
Are you related to Lyndon?
Thoughtful certainly (as always with Kremer) but it's all wrong for me. What's "vivace" about the first movement? I get no sense at all of a prevailing tempo in any of the movements. I like the fact that he doesn't play it all with a uniform fat tone, but when they come so frequently the "ethereal" moments lose their magic. Brahms needs more backbone
Intimate. Tender. And I like to savour every miraculous note in Brahms' piano parts in this way.
Kremer too slow? This I gotta hear. :)
Sounds like he's on Quaaludes at 6:00. I will never get Kremer.
Indeed the Kremer interpretation is quite special at first hearing, but then when you put the sheet music next to it, you notice that he is actually following Brahms's instructions quite closely. Brahms put lots of pianissimo's. Even the tempo is "vivace ma non troppo" measured in 6/4 which I think corresponds to what he is actually taking as tempo.
Jean - surely "vivace ma non troppo" indicates "lively (but don't go mad)". The overall impression I come away with is anything but lively. 6/4 of course indicates 2-in-a-bar compound time but can't be taken as an indication of tempo. In fact the tempo they start with isn't all that slow; I just wish they'd stuck with it.
I am with Steve. The freedom in tempo change is too much for my taste. It started a bit under temp and then just gets slower and slower to the point of being weird to my ears. The 2nd movement (Adagio)too is more like Largo.
It's extraordinary how interpretations and opinions on interpretations can differ. Kremer and Afanasssiev are both great musicians so who are we to tell them they're wrong? Only one man has the right to do that and he's long gone. With any performance there will be "likers" and "dislikers" and no matter how strong their rational case for objection may be the latter are the losers (unless you really like disliking things, which I guess some people do).
I think it's very beautiful and thoughtful. I don't *think* I would approach it in the same way - I'd go rather faster.
I also have big issues with A S-M's Beethoven sonatas! She likes to "do" something with almost every bar which I reckon Beethoven doesn't require. In Brahms, though, I do think careful attention to phrasing pays dividends.
"Kremer and Afanasssiev are both great musicians so who are we to tell them they're wrong?"
Yixi - My point is that many critics (professional and amateur) are only too eager to tell artists they are wrong and are reluctant to accept there might be a different point of view than their own. Would it be a good idea if they invited the artists to respond to their comments and hopefully create a discussion rather than a confrontation? I think that would require a certain humility on the part of the artist which is also sadly a rather rare commodity.
I don't think the artists needs to respond to criticism at all. Criticism is ultimately more about the critics than those who have been criticized. In other words, an artist put out fruit of their labour, that job is done.The fruit starts the life if its own and those who taste it, will have all sorts of experiences and ideas. That's theirs to have.
THANK YOU! I enjoyed this. A lot. Listened to them do all three Brahms sonatas (iTunes).
I just checked out the timings of 22 other recordings of the sonata in the Naxos Music Library (there are plenty more). Twenty of them come in between 26 and 29 minutes (recall Kremer/Afanassiev take more than 36). The last two, both timed around 24 minutes, include the duo Oleg Kagan and Sviatoslav Richter. Yes, they do play all the notes, with a sense of urgency that I find more involving than their compatriots and which doesn't in my view violate Brahms's tempo indications. There's also a live performance on youtube. Try it! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hkd_INNL3Jo
I like the opening but may be a bit too ponderous overall for me too, especially the development, which is kinda weird, but maybe saved by the transition to the recap. But I agree some of the recap is too halting, and I like more drive in the coda. Big finish!
Jeewon, thank you thank you, for such a beautiful and helpful review! I didn't know Brahms' tempo indication is less strict, and that's really good to know. Thanks for the Regenlied, which I listen often since I started to learn this piece. I love this piece so much! There are so much packed in it and so much to work on.
Hah, been there, done that! I usually start "discovering" novel solutions to problems I never had the closer I get to the performance. :-)
The one thing I've never found satisfying about Kremer's playing is his tone. There's just something about his vibrato that doesn't hit me, and though I like his Brahms tempos (a bit slow, though), I just wasn't drawn into his tone in the way I have been by many others, such as the younger Isaac Stern, or Grumiaux or Francescatti, or Mutter or Rosand.
I've been listening to another controversial player in this piece. Anne-Sophie Mutter's tempi are conventional enough but for the opening and elsewhere she adopts a faint, breathlessly throbbing tone that to me sounds highly contrived. Is it properly respectful of a performer (who after all isn't the creative artist here) to draw attention to herself in this way?
"Is it properly respectful of a performer (who after all isn't the creative artist here) to draw attention to herself in this way?"
I like ASM's Brahms, but sometimes in some of her recordings, I feel like she goes a little off the rails in some of her interpretations. I don't know if she is really thinking "look at me!", or if that is just her understanding of the music. I mean, I think a lot of Kremer's interpretive choices are absurd (mostly in rhythmic terms, although I find his tone kind of acerbic), and I wonder at how he comes to his interpretations - I still hesitate to say he is trying to make the music about himself (I imagine he is looking for new possibilities). But I like ASM's extremes, which when good reflect a really passionate performance, and when unchecked, seem a little hysterical, and more importantly for me, I find her rhythms to be pretty organic and her tone to largely be beautiful.
Sorry Yixi, I'd say a classical violinist is not a creative artist but an interpretative artist whose first responsibility should be to the composer. I fully accept that she is entitled to bring something of her personality to her playing (and I'd not think much of her if she didn't), but how much is acceptable? It disturbs me when listening I suddenly feel "that wasn't Brahms, that was x!".
Steve, I don't know how many serious violinists would happily limit themselves to a mere interpretative artist. But maybe I am confused. Can you explain to us a bit more about
This is going to sound pretty pompous, but I appreciate your interest in my cod philosophy!
It makes sense and I can see where you come from, Steve. I think you'd agree that it's bit of a slippery slope... btw, what is cod philosophy?
I meant to imply "homespun". I wondered if you'd ask what sort of artist I'd call a jazz violinist, and my ready answer was a "performance artist" which is another convenient and simplistic label.
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