Beethoven Sonatas for Fortepiano and Violin, Op. 12, Nos 1-3
Susanna Ogata (violin), Ian Watson (fortepiano)
Coro COR16161 56:32 mins
Few of Beethoven’s early works were more defiantly original and provocative than his first three violin sonatas, Op. 12, with their sudden switches of key and their bold gestures sweeping across the keyboard. In a famous piece of invective, the leading music journal of the day was duly provoked: ‘Undeniably, Herr Beethoven goes his own way, but what a bizarre, arduous way it is! Learned, learned and constantly learned, and nothing natural, no melody!’ As always when publishing three works together, Beethoven made sure they were as different as possible in character. Thus, the first sonata, with its jagged fanfares, is swaggering and self-confident, the middle work witty and gracious, and the third grand and imperious.
Using a copy of an early 19th century piano by Anton Walter (whose instruments Beethoven is known to have admired) and a slightly earlier violin by the Bavarian maker Joseph Klotz, Ian Watson and Susanna Ogata offer stylish and invigorating performances. Watson negotiates the cascades of notes in the virtuoso opening movement of the E flat major last sonata with admirable fluency, and both he and Ogata have just the right amount of expressive flexibility in the rondo from the A-major second work. At the start of the middle movement of the latter sonata, Watson arpeggiates the richly-scored chords in a manner that Beethoven may have expected. Perhaps the players could have plumbed greater depths in the Adagio of the E-flat work – the expressive high-point of the series, and its only genuine slow movement – but their performances give much enjoyment.