Beethoven: Violin Sonata in D, Op. 12/1; Violin Sonata in F, Op. 24 (Spring); Violin Sonata in A, Op. 47 (Kreutzer)

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COMPOSERS: Beethoven
LABELS: Essay
WORKS: Violin Sonata in D, Op. 12/1; Violin Sonata in F, Op. 24 (Spring); Violin Sonata in A, Op. 47 (Kreutzer)
PERFORMER: Mela Tenenbaum (violin), Richard Kapp (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CD 1083
‘Beethoven as it should sound’ is how Essay’s website describes this release. Well, they would, wouldn’t they? On the plus side, there’s an alert approach to tempo and a positive way with phrasing, but there’s also sometimes a tendency to rush and a coarseness of sound in the violin, which is a consequence of less than controlled bowing. This is apparent from the first phrase of the First Sonata, and is demonstrated even more forcibly in its rondo finale. And the beginning of the Spring Sonata encapsulates it all, with a felicitous turn of phrase followed by poor intonation or rough attack. Richard Kapp’s piano playing is more consistent, and I like the bright sound of his Steinway: the contrast between his clean lines and the vibrato-heavy violin playing in the Adagio from this Sonata really shows up the different approach of the players. And the competition in this repertoire is fierce – even without going back to the Classical elegance of Kreisler, there’s the muscularity of Oistrakh, or the refined engagement of the better-recorded Perlman. And both their pianists – Oborin and Ashkenazy – are equal chamber music partners. When it comes to the Kreutzer, Mela Tenenbaum comes unstuck in intonation and tone production more often than is comfortable, and once you start worrying where the next gaffe is going to be, it’s impossible to concentrate on the music. Which isn’t the case with Oistrakh or Perlman – or, if you’re prepared to splash out for all ten sonatas, the inspired duo of Dumay and Pires on DG, in up-to-the-minute digital sound. Martin Cotton

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