Beethoven: Violin Sonatas Nos 1-10 (complete)
If you like your Beethoven serious in tone, intellectually concentrated, free of caprice or any hint of waywardness, then this set is likely to please. The famous Kreutzer Sonata can give the impression in performance that the emotional weight is all in the first movement. Impressive as Leonidas Kavakos and Enrico Pace are in that taut, stormy drama, theirs is a much more integrated, consistent account. When the variation-form second Andante turns to its dark minor side, we sense the storm clouds are still with us, and from its opening fortissimo chord, the finale is a worthy summing up. Both players seem very much of the same mind in this performance, and there’s clearly a strong rapport between them.
Interestingly, it’s the early Sonatas – especially the Op. 12 set – that come off best. No question of Beethoven finding his voice here: he’s very much his own man from the start. All admirable, of course, but I miss the playfulness of Alina Ibragimova and Cédric Tiberghien (Wigmore Hall Live), and the sheer richness of character of Isabelle Faust and Alexander Melnikov (Harmonia Mundi). The latter in particular give us a more Shakespearean view of Beethoven, with all the breadth, fantasy and unpredictability that adjective implies.
The recordings, however, are excellent: warm, clear in tone and finely balanced. I’m glad I heard this set, but whether it’s the one I’d want to live with is another matter.