Josef Labor chamber works of exceptional beauty

Two years ago I reviewed the Joseph Labor Piano Quintets released by Capriccio. I said, “Anyone who enjoys Fin de siècle late-Romanticism should find much to like here.” Some of those same artists return to present more of Labor’s chamber music. And my assessment still holds.

Josef Labor was a blind organist, pianist, and composer, active in turn of the century Vienna. He worked with composers such as Johannes Brahms, Gustav Mahler, and Richard Strauss. And he taught several others, including Arnold Schoenberg.

The works on this release are of exceptional beauty. The 1897 Cello Sonata in A major celebrates the singing tone of the solo instrument. Floris Mihinders performs with deep expression that makes this work such a joy to listen to.

The 1893 Violin Sonata in D minor is also beautiful. Here, though, I heard more of Brahms than perhaps Labor’s own voice. Violinist Nina Karmon and pianist Oliver Triendl, who also worked on the quintet album, make a great team. Their performances sounded like a conversation between good friends.

The real standout for me, though, was the Theme and Variations for horn and piano. The theme was absolutely gorgeous, especially played by Premysl Vojta. His pure, clear tone was a joy to listen to.

 Joseph Labor: Sonatas for Violin and Cello
Nina Karmon, violin; Floris Mijinders, cello; Premysl Vojta, horn; Oliver Triendl, piano
Capriccio C5430


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