The disc is broadly “historically inspired” with pianist Boris Berman using an 1885 Bechstein baby grand, further noting that apparently Brahms preferred smaller grands and had an aversion to Viennese concert grands. Greensmith himself plays on his accustomed Strad but with four gut strings – allowing him to blend better with the piano and not, he avers, for slavish reasons. One result has been an avoidance of big sound generic performance and the establishment of different principles – plangent tone allied to long bow. Another has been a good balance between the two instruments, something that is exceptionally difficult to get right normally.
The proof is in the dessert. Here are performances of interior expressive eloquence. The E minor is spun with generous flexibility quite the opposite of the Russian School’s high wire act of projection and articulation. There’s no digging into the string. Instead utilising the gut strings sensitively Greensmith draws a wide range of tone colours. Occasionally a slightly nasal tone emerges in the more strenuous passagework but the balance between the two instruments remains excellent. Greensmith and Berman catch the dance rhythms of Menuetto, the give and take between them finely judged. The rhythmic emphases are subtly deployed and the finale’s vibrant and exciting. The cello is recorded quite forwardly and Berman plays with rewarding control – his treble glinting dextrously.