In transcribing his third symphony for two pianos, Brahms acted in the grand tradition of generations of composers who, with more or less success, rearranged their music for different instruments. What Brahms accomplished, and what pianists Bracha Eden and Alexander Tamir recreated so beautifully for the continuing Brahms Festival at the Library of Congress last night, was a piece that shows no trace of being an arrangement. Instead, it is a monumental work thoroughly in the idiom of Brahms' piano music and convincing and powerful in its own right.
Eden and Tamir had a lot to do with its impact. Brahms can't take all the credit. Their playing has the unity that comes with years of collaboration, but an energy that denies accommodation and sounds, instead, spontaneous. The complicated inner rhythms of the third movement unfolded with no hint of being contrived, and the second movement's lyricism had an almost vocal quality without loosing its pianistic nature.
The D-minor Violin Sonata is a more standard item of repertoire, but received anything but a standard performance by violinist Gidon Kremer and Valery Afanassiev. For three movements, Kremer shaped and molded every note, milking each phrase for sentiment. It was an intriguing approach but a little precious, and one wished they'd get on with it.
The fourth movement, however, revealed a volatile and immensely vital side of the duo. The music moved with energy and irresistible power and, at the end, drew cheers from the audience.
The evening opened with a nice reading by Eden and Tamir of the opulent Variations on a Theme by Schumann for piano, four-hands.