Violin Sonatas, Op.105 and 121

CLARA SCHUMANN (1819-1896)
3 Romances, Op.22

Robert Schumann: Sonata No. 1 for Violin and Piano in a minor Op.105
1. I Mit leidenschaftlichem Ausdruck
2. II Allegretto
3. III Lebhaft

Robert Schumann: Sonata No. 2 for Violin and Piano in d minor Op.121
4. I Ziemlich langsam – Lebhaft
5. II Sehr lebhaft
6. III Leise, einfach
7. IV Bewegt

Clara Schumann: 3 Romances for Violin and Piano Op.22
8. I No.1 in D Flat Major (Andante molto)
9. II No. 2 in G minor (Allegretto, mit zartem Vortag
10. III No. 3 in B Flat minor (Leidenschaftlich schnell), Brian Wigman, March 2013

“Robert Schumann gets a lot of flack for his symphonic works, which are somewhat foursquare in conception. Then he doesn't get credit from many for his chamber music. Go figure. Clara usually gets passed over entirely for her husband, and ends up in the shadow of Brahms, too. Maybe the Schumann family is just unlucky then, but the music is simply wonderful stuff. As I stated last month, Joao Paulo Santos and Bruno Monteiro are a terrific duo, who clearly believe in whatever they play. This disc has already gotten a good deal of media attention, and rightfully so, but my two cents are below.
Monteiro has a unique sound, and it takes some getting used to. Once you've done that, bask in his unfailing artistry and musical sincerity. The two Schumann sonatas simply soar; Centaur's recording putting you in a concert hall seat. To my ears, the first sonata reminds me a good deal of Brahms, and it's none the worse for that. Even if you disagree, it's so delightfully soulful and Romantic that you have to appreciate just how masterful this is. Perhaps it doesn't have the tunes that Brahms' work for this pairing does, but what it possesses is great regardless. Santos is simply wonderful; I loved him in the Saint-Saens/Strauss disc I reviewed, and in a more favorable acoustic I'm able to appreciate just how fine an artist he is. But this is still Bruno Monteiro's show, and he glows. The darkly dramatic third movement shows him at his virtuosic best.
The second sonata is both more substantial and more challenging. It fazes these players not a whit, their abilities shine in this work, too. Lasting over a half hour, this piece oozes Romanticism in an absolutely spine-tingling manner. I'd like to highlight the third movement, which is simply gorgeous. Again, the violinists' unique tone may raise some brows, but so serious is his purpose and so heartfelt are the melodies that there's little else to quibble about. The finale brings the work to a stormy and whirlwind close. It's intensely satisfying.
Instead of the composer's third sonata, Santos and Monteiro opt instead for three heart-wrenching Romances by his wife Clara that prove an apt coupling. They are what they are, melancholy and bittersweet miniatures that show Clara's extraordinary gifts for composing, gifts she would abandon at Robert's death. Again, praise goes to Bruno Monteiro and João Pablo Santos for their complete belief in the music and their willingness to put it before us. This is really very, very fine. A winner of a disc."


Fanfare Magazine, Lynn René Bayley, September 2012

"Here is a disc with multiple and often big-named competition, particularly in the first two works, although surprisingly enough, most of the heavily recommended versions are by lesser-known names (Nicolas Chumachenco on MDG 3041647, Thomas Zehetmair on Teldec 81031, and Ingolf Turban on Telos 98). In the Clara Schumann Romances, his principal competition seems to be Aaron Rosand (Musical Concepts 129) and Soojin Han (Profil 10071). I give the disc thumbs up for Monteiro’s sensitive and highly musical phrasing, as well as the outstanding playing of pianist Santos. He is clearly a descendant, either consciously or unconsciously, of the Arnold Rosé school of violin playing, meaning that he produces a strong but astringent, almost wiry tone that probably sounds great if he were concertmaster of an orchestra but can be grating in a sonata setting. (To be fair, I hear much the same tone from the far more famous Gidon Kremer.). (…) Monteiro’s smouldering, passionate playing wins one over as these works progress. (…) I found myself enjoying him immensely. I can recommend this as an arresting interpretation."


Fanfare Magazine, Maria Nockin, September 2012

"Bruno Monteiro is a young Portuguese violinist who is beginning to make an important career. Here, he plays with pianist João Paulo Santos, the Director of Musical Theatre Studies at the Teatro Nacional de São Carlos. Together the intensity of their playing makes the Schumanns’ romantic passion come alive. Monteiro has wonderfully poetic and dramatic tones while Santos gives us pianistic energy. The Robert Schumann sonatas are extremely demanding and there are times when dramatic propulsion overtakes precision, but the outcome is well worth it. This is no-holds-barred playing that commands the listener’s attention and holds it fast for the duration of each sonata. When the composer calls for passionate expression, Monteiro and Santos give us exactly that and when Schumann asks for a light touch, they make the music skip along like a child at play. Gidon Kremer and Martha Argerich also offer a strong rendition of the first two Robert Schumann sonatas on Deutsche Grammophon, but they recorded their disc in 1985 and the sound is a little less than today’s state of the art. More than a decade ago Silke Avenhaus and Isabelle Faust recorded all three of the Schumann sonatas for a CPO records release and their renditions are also good, but they do not have the intensity or passion of the Monteiro and Santos Centaur recording. The ambience is that of a concert hall and the sound is clear and present."


Fanfare Magazine, Jerry Dubins, September 2012

"The last recording of Schumann’s violin sonatas I received for review featured the up-and-coming, Chicago-born, Korean violinist Jennifer Koh and her excellent pianist partner Reiko Uchida. That was back in the 2007, 30:6 issue of the magazine. Of Koh’s playing I said at the time that it was of a transfiguring refinement and beauty that somehow manages to blend a sense of angelic chastity with a sense of profound human knowingness, and I compared her to Menuhin in his good years. That’s a tough act to follow, but Portuguese violinist Bruno Monteiro achieves a different but equally alluring beauty all his own in the two with-opus-number sonatas. His tone, not as virginal sounding as Koh’s, has a vibrant, throbbing quality to it that swathes Schumann’s effusive outpouring of almost nonstop melody in a mellow glow. If it’s brightness and a sense of innocence that suffuse Koh’s readings, Monteiro’s are more mature, filled with feelings of past happiness lost and portents of darkness to come. Where the two versions overlap, they complement each other nicely and, were it only for the two sonatas I’d have a hard time choosing one over the other. (…) The three Romances are lovingly and longingly played here by Monteiro and Santos. A thoroughly engaging release recommended without reservation."


MusicWeb International, Byzantion, August 2012

“(…) Schumann's mental health was in serious decline in the final year or two of his life, but in the two Sonatas of this attractive recital by Portuguese violinist Bruno Monteiro and his stalwart pianist João Paulo Santos there is little sign of anything but vitality and an imagination that is looking unequivocally to the future. Minor key tonalities do not always mean doom and gloom, and there is barely an unilluminated corner in either of Schumann's Sonatas. (…) There are many recordings available already of the two, frequently paired: choice picks among single-CD recordings include Marwood and Tomes on Hyperion (CDA 67180), Gringolts and Laul on Onyx (4053), Wallin and Pöntinen on BIS (SACD 1784), Widmann and Várjon on ECM New Series (4766744), Kaler and Slutsky on Naxos (8.550870). Yet this one on the American independent Centaur has plenty going for it too, not least the coupling with Clara's Romances, which is seldom encountered. Moreover, along with Carlos Damas, Bruno Monteiro is one of Portugal's leading violinists. His approach to Schumann's music may be characterised as approachably intellectual, with good attention to tempi and phrasing and very little vibrato. He is never drily academic, expressing emotional aspects effectively through an appealing smattering of rubato. Monteiro's violin has a tone that will not be to all tastes, however, being a little more on the fluorescent side than glowing. João Paulo Santos makes a highly dependable and intelligent partner. Sound quality is good overall."


Expresso, Jorge Calado, August 2011

"It is comforting to hear a CD of international repertoire by Portuguese instrumentalists. (…) Bruno Monteiro, that had the support of the excellent Gerardo Ribeiro and subsequently American training, is one of today´s most renowned Portuguese musicians, highlighted by a handfull of first-rate recordings. The beauty of the sound imposes itself from the beginning of the "Sonata in a minor, Op.105" (1851). With the irreproachable collaboration of João Paulo Santos – always aware of the tempo and rhythmic changes and the piano textures -, we have a fresh interpretation, where the introspective character is not betrayed by the big lightness of the 2nd movement neither by the brilliant rhythmic articulation of the 3rd. (…) The delicious 3rd movement (with chordal pizzicatto) and the mischievous 4th (Sonata Op.121), where Schumann feels tempted to explore new rhythms and harmonies, sound to me well explored. (…) The 3 Romances, of C. Schumann, composed in 1853 and obviously stimulated by her husband´s sonatas, are small dreamlike and melancholic jewels, where piano and violin dialogue on equal terms."


American Record Guide, Joseph Magil, July 2011

"These performances are interesting. Bruno Monteiro plays with many mannerisms of an era long past. He uses frequent portamentos and sparse vibrato, as you would expect to hear from contemporaries of the Schumanns'. Also, this duo's tempos are ideal; they never let the music's energy wind down, and they use effective rubato. Monteiro has a perfect sense of how the music must flow, and that is what I nearly always complain about in recordings of these Sonatas. The Three Romances by Clara Schumann are, if not quite up to the level of her husband's, very good music that violinists might consider adding to their recitals. (…) João Paulo Santos is a vigorous yet considerate partner."


Audio Video Club of Atlanta, Phil Muse, June 2011

"Two musical artists from Portugal, Bruno Monteiro and João Paulo Santos, bring fresh life to two engaging works from the last years of Robert Schumann’s life. (…) The finale (Sonata nº1) requires the close teamwork of both partners and keeps our artists on their toes. (…) The final movement (Sonata nº2) (…) in the hands of Monteiro and Santos, it builds steadily to a fine climax. The program also features Three Romances, Op. 22 by Clara Schumann.(…) My favourite, No. 3 in B flat minor, is radiantly beautiful in this performance."


Regina Brady (

"I listened to a recording of the three romances (Clara Schumann) by Bruno Monteiro on violin and João Paulo Santos on piano. The first romance is a beautiful romantic melody which reminds me slightly of Robert Schumann’s Adagio from his Adagio and Allegro for horn and piano. Monteiro’s and Santos’ playing is extremely poignant, with Monteiro’s violin getting a huge sound. The second romance, has a more dancelike quality, and has a more folkstyle approach. I think the third romance really is the most beautiful one. Each interval is caressed by the players and there is an amazingly beautiful line for the melody. It is sad they have not both received the attention that they deserve."


Diário de Notícias, Bernardo Mariano, March 2011

"In the Sonata nº1 (Schumann), we highlight the first movement (with passionate expression) and in the Second Sonata, again the first movement and the third one, as those where the technical proficiency and right expression (both hauling often the violin up to its limits) reach more elevated levels. In the Romances, I highlight nº1, by the balance and domestic fusion and salon like decorum."


Jornal de Letras, Maria Augusta Gonçalves, February 2011

"This is the first CD by violinist Bruno Monteiro for the biggest independent North American recording label, Centaur. This fact alone says a lot about the career of the Portuguese musician and is also eloquent as regards to the partnership with pianist João Paulo Santos, present in three of the four CD´s published with the Monteiro´s "signature". (…) Bruno Monteiro and João Paulo Santos do not fear the constant tension, do not avoid the confrontation with the evidence and the inevitability that each one of the works present. The piano offers one of most idiomatic readings of the last movement of the Grand Sonata, and the violin knows well the internal "voice" that Schumann attributed to him – the big example being the end of the Op. 105. The complicity between the two musicians is evident – but that is only possible by who knows what distinguishes a great interpretation. Here, the test is done, again, at all moments. The album closes with the three Romances of Clara Schumann and its dialogue is expressive and sad, between the two instruments. A possible epilogue, probably the most correct one for one of the most beautiful homages to the chamber music of the German composer that came out this year."