Is there a better trio than the Florestan playing today? All three members are consummate artists, outstanding instrumentalists, and ensemble players to the manner born, but it’s the playing of pianist Susan Tomes that carries these performances to their greatest heights. Since the ensemble is perfectly judged by all concerned, it may seem unjust to single out the playing of one member for special comment, but such is the extreme sophistication, the extraordinary subtlety and the expressive range of this artist that I can see no alternative. The tonal control, the exquisite shaping of phrases, the rhythmical suppleness and structural backbone are of an order seldom encountered in the playing even of many famous soloists. But what renders her playing here still more remarkable is the exemplary precision with which it’s matched to the different sonorities and qualities of attack, so-called, of the string players. And what players they are. For all of the above this is not a pianist-dominated performance, except insofar as Schubert wrote the piece that way.
As one might have imagined, if Russian super-virtuoso-pianist-turned-conductor Mikhail Pletnev was going to try a couple of Mozart concertos on for size, it makes sense they'd be the D minor and the A major. With the D minor's driven outer movements and the A major's nocturnal central movement, these are two of Mozart's most nearly Romantic concertos. And, as a Russian super-virtuoso pianist, Pletnev naturally had to interpret them in a Romantic manner.
The sound quality is good and the performances are excellent. I recently had the opportunity to compare Kashkashian's performance with Hindemith's own 1930s recording and while I naturally give props to Hindemith for recording his own work I like Kashkashian's performance of the Op. 24 viola sonata more– not just for sound but for the speed and fire she puts into the wild fourth movement. Hindemith's contribution to viola repertoire is probably the single most important one of the 20th century and this is probably the best available recording of his works. It includes all the solo and with-piano works on just two discs. It's also nice that Kashkashian and Levin recorded the viola works that were unpublished during Hindemith's lifetime, giving us a fuller insight into his work for the instrument than we might otherwise hear.
Following his recent dazzling Liszt recital (CDA67085), Stephen Hough turns his attention to the finest works of the young Brahms. Brahms's three piano sonatas are early works, culminating with the epic F minor Sonata. Spanning five movements, with dramatic and wildly virtuosic outer movements, and a hauntingly beautiful slow movement (described by Claudio Arrau as "the greatest love music after Tristan, and the most erotic"), this is one of the defining piano sonatas of the mid-nineteenth century.