The Berlin Recital
Gidon Kremer; Martha Argerich
EMI Classics 6 93999 2
The first thing that strikes you about this 2CD set, recorded in concert at the Berlin Philharmonie in December 2006, is the obvious disparity between the two featured composers, Schumann and Bartok. The links suggested in the booklet notes - two pianist-composers who wrote for every musical genre and were both interested in musical education - are unconvincing and tenuous at best, but what does make these two an interesting pairing is not their supposed similarities but their clear and contrasting differences.
Each is represented by a sonata for violin and piano - No.2 of Schumann, No.1 of Bartok - and a solo work - Bartok’s solo violin sonata for Kremer and Schumann’s Kinderszenen for Argerich.
The duo works could not be more different in sound or style, with Schumann’s conservative approach treating the somewhat subdued violin as part of the overall texture, while Bartok treats the two instruments independently, making great technical demands of the players. Kremer and Argerich have been performing together for many years (they recorded the Schumann sonatas for DGG in 1986) and it shows - they clearly think and feel as one.
The solo works, too, are simply light years apart. Both receive outstanding performances here, but Kremer’s stunning playing in the fiendishly difficult Bartok really steals the show.
Audience presence is apparent before and after each work, but thankfully never for a moment during the performances.
Two Kreisler encores, Liebeslied and Schon Rosmarin, round out this attractively-priced set.