Rediscover Brahms! The works for violin and piano by Johannes Brahms are firmly anchored in the chamber music repertoire and are available on countless recordings. They all share an enthusiastic, deeply romantic tonal language that often entices musicians to live it out. But in the search for an interpretative balance between the poetic substance of the works and the will to express oneself, one thing is all too often forgotten: Brahms was not only extremely critical of his own music. He was also extremely conscientious with his musical texts – and in the eyes of Elmira Darvarova and Zhen Chen these are often neglected. In more than 80 years of recording history, standards of interpretation have established themselves to this day, which the two want to counteract with their recording. To this end, they took an intensive look at the music and re-examined the original text of the works. They deliberately put their personal reading behind the composer’s specifications. The result is a fresh approach that allows the listener to rediscover the music – a Brahms that appears more vital without losing seriousness or neglecting the enormous spectrum of emotions inherent in these works.
For the duo instrumentation violin and piano, Brahms has left to posterity three sonata works and a Scherzo movement that was unpublished during his lifetime. They are part of a chamber music oeuvre that can be regarded as central to the composer’s oeuvre as a whole. The intimate setting offered the ideal conditions for his musical considerations – sensitive and yet highly complex. Although the sonatas are not a homogenous group in their conception, they all have a distinct melodious tonal language in common, which moves between lyricism, melancholy and dramatic passion. While Brahms practices himself in the first two works with loving, sometimes cloudy restraint and lets the violin be sung using his own song material, in the third sonata the instrument merges with the piano to an artistic dialogue of concertante proportions.
Zhen Chen, hailed as “brilliant” by Fanfare Magazine, is equally successful as a pianist and composer. He can be experienced as a soloist and chamber musician especially in the United States and China. Maxim Vengerov, Cho-Liang Lin and soloists of the New York Philharmonic are among his musical partners. In 2016 he released his debut CD with violinist Shuai Shi as ‘Jade Duo’ featuring violin sonatas by Fauré, Schumann and Bartók (MSR Classics). The album was celebrated by Fanfare for its “perfect balance” with “sheer beauty of tone, fluent and fluid playing, and emotional refinement.” With the Grammy-nominated Elmira Darvarova, he has an equally talented partner at his side. As an orchestral violinist, she has gone down in history as the first (and so far only) woman-concertmaster of the New York Metropolitan Opera. She has performed on all continents and with numerous renowned orchestras and has recorded numerous CDs as a soloist, chamber musician and orchestral violinist, including the first recording of Vernon Duke’s Violin Concerto with the Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra (Urlicht AudioVisual, 2014) and a CD with chamber music works by René de Castéra (Azur Classical, 2015), which MusicWeb International named a ‘recording of the year’.
September 22, 2017