Tall Poppies


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 TP (1-900)



Violin Sonatas

$23   (Australian dollars)


buy at: AMC - Buywell - iTunes

Tall Poppies Records is proud to release this fine recording by a talented young Australian violinist, Ben Breen, who lives in New York working as a musician and sommelier. Breen has a special affinity with the Brahms sonatas, and for this recording has teamed up with veteran American pianist Milton Kaye.

Now in his nineties, Kaye has had a distinguished career, which included the premiere of Shostakovich’s 1st Piano Concerto in the USA, and war-time tours with the legendary violinist Jascha Heifetz, with whom he also recorded extensively.

This recording was made in New York and mastered in Sydney.

The CD features a delectable illustration by artist Bill Leak (daily editorial cartoonist for The Australian) and extensive illustrated notes by musicologist Benjamin Folkman.


Violin Sonata No. 1 in G major, Op. 78
Violin Sonata No. 2 in A major, Op. 100
Violin Sonata No. 3 in D minor, Op. 108


Everything comes to the one who waits—twice. Tall Poppies is an Australian label whose releases have been somewhat hard to come by, at least here at the outposts of civilization commonly called the West Coast. I had been aware of the existence of this CD for some time, but it had managed to elude my grasp until I finally ordered it from an import service. Two days after I received it in the mail, a second copy of it arrived courtesy of Command Central. Funny how these things happen.
Benjamin Breen (he is listed as Ben on the CD front and back covers) is regarded as one of Australia’s leading violinists. He made his Carnegie Hall recital debut in the Weill Recital Hall in 1993, and has since toured extensively throughout the US, Europe, and Japan, as well as his native country. Milton Kaye probably requires no introduction, being an established American pianist of many years’ experience, who toured and recorded with Heifetz, and accompanied Erica Morini and Oscar Shumsky.
Disappointed as I was with the recent set of Brahms violin sonatas with Shlomo Mintz (Fanfare 28:6), the most memorable feature of which was their unprecedented slowness, I am happy to report that Breen and Kaye play these works at tempos that reflect reasonably Brahms’s movement indications. But there is more good news. These are performances that manage for once to nail Brahms’s nasty rhythmic intricacies with dead-on accuracy, no easy task when faced with the notorious rhythmic challenges posed by this composer. I suspect that at least some of the rhythmic precision of these readings can be attributed to Kaye’s work with Broadway composer/arranger Robert Russell Bennett. It is clear that Kaye takes the lead role in these recordings, but not to the point where he dominates Breen or renders the role of the violin secondary.
And therein lie still more plaudits. Breen has a tone of such vibrancy and warmth that it will make you want to cuddle. The sound he produces reminds me of Oistrakh in his recordings of these sonatas with Richter, and that is an extraordinary compliment indeed. In combination with the extremely solid underpinning of Kaye’s piano, this becomes one of the top Brahms sonata discs on the market. It is only because I was so taken with this CD that I voice the complaint that there was still enough room left on it to have included the movement Brahms contributed to the so-called "F-A-E" Sonata.
While I cannot praise the playing of this duo too highly, I must add that prizes also go to recording engineer Adrian Carr and to the recording itself. This could serve as instruction to would-be recording engineers and producers on how to capture a violin and piano with perfect sound imaging. The only question now is what to do with my extra copy of the disc? Very highly recommended.
Jerry Dubins
Fanfare 2006

"Breen plays the three violin sonatas with wonderful warmth of sound tinged with gold, which seems ideally matched to these autumnal expressive works."
Sydney Morning Herald

"Brightly lyrical and joyous in expression... Highly recommended.."
Canberra Times

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 TP (1-900)



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