By Laurence Vittes
Given the intense musical intimacy between violinist Pinchas Zukerman and cellist Amanda Forsyth on this extraordinary recording of Brahms’ Double Concerto, you could be forgiven for thinking that the music had been written to explore the outer limits of romance.
Forsyth and Zukerman are married, but Brahms, in fact, wrote the concerto (his last orchestral work) to heal a personal rift with his old friend Joseph Joachim, for whom he had written the Violin Concerto. But when you hear Zukerman, playing spectacularly well, and Forsyth consistently re-examining both the familiar interpretive touchstone spots, one starts to wonder why it has not been more often presented by actual partners. They nail the opening cadenzas in uniquely warm, embracing fashion and they sing the triplets after letter C in the Andante like a lovers’ lullaby. The violinist Mihaela Martin–cellist Frans Helmerson and violinist Oleg Kagan–cellist Natalia Gutman recordings are the only other such pairings in the catalog.
Taken from live performances in 2015, the pure musical delights are enhanced by the National Arts Centre Orchestra in Canada, which supports the soloists’ excursions through time and space with poetry and responsive phrasing. Zukerman’s performance of Brahms’ Fourth Symphony from a year earlier is more conventionally lyrical and fine.
[Editor’s Note: To watch a 2010 video of a performance by Zukerman and Forsyth playing the Brahms Double Concerto, click here.]