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Duo's Brahms album is stunning, articulate

DAVID FINCKEL, CELLO, WU HAN, PIANO; Brahms (ArtistLed)****The husband-and-wife duo of David Finckel and Wu Han have explored the cello/piano literature in a series of albums they've released on the ArtistLed label, the company they founded in 1997. And at long last, they've come to the music of Johannes Brahms.

Brahms only wrote two sonatas for cello and piano, but both are masterpieces of the repertoire.

The first, in E minor, written in the years 1862-65, is filled with a warm expressiveness and an impassioned urgency that, while subdued compared to some of his other works, nevertheless is charged with dramatic potency and energy.

The second, in F major, written some 20 years later, is a richly textured work that contains one of the most hauntingly evocative adagios that Brahms ever penned.

Both sonatas are given deeply felt and emotionally charged performances by Finckel and Wu Han. They capture the depth and passion of the music wonderfully. Finckel is an amazing cellist with a prodigious technique and a musicality to match. And Wu Han is no less remarkable. A pianist with sensitivity, she brings perceptiveness and dimension to the readings.

Rounding out this stunning album are the Six Pieces for Solo Piano, op. 118, which gives the listener a chance to hear Wu Han's talents as a soloist. These are beautifully articulate and perceptive readings that capture the depth of feeling that Brahms expresses.

Particularly wondrous is her poetic playing of the evocative A major Intermezzo and her dramatic turn in the G minor Ballade.

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