The Strad Issue: January 2013
Description: Perceptively free-ranging performances of Romantic classics
Musicians: Jennifer Pike (violin) Tom Poster (piano)
Composer: Brahms, R. Schumann, C. Schumann

It was said that Robert Schumann composed the first of his two violin sonatas in just four days, and it is that white-heat-of-the-moment feeling that is reflected in Jennifer Pike’s impulsive and spontaneous performance. If she appears more drawn to the emotionally charged aspects of Schumann’s character than to the moments of dreamy melancholy, the reading as a whole is very much in keeping with his wide mood swings.

Pike carries this free approach into the first of the two Brahms sonatas, where the opening movement retains most of the unmarked but commonly taken changes of pulse, along with a few of her own. Her quick tempos for all three movements are effective, and her performance is one of the few on disc that consistently comes close to the composer’s metronome markings. If, on the other hand, her dynamic range sounds somewhat restrained, it could well come from the recorded balance that gives Tom Poster’s piano a very powerful presence.

The three charming works by Clara Schumann are gorgeously played. Throughout the disc, Pike’s 1708 Matteo Gofriller violin sings with lyrical elegance, and her tonal quality is a constant delight. Matters of balance aside, the sound quality is very good.