Violin Sonatas Nos 3, 6-8
Michael Foyle (violin), Maksim Štšura (piano)
Challenge Classics CC 72861 78:38 mins
Every recording of Beethoven’s violin sonatas possesses its own unique personality and it is fascinating to compare established duo team Michael Foyle and Maksim Štšura in their second release of the series with some established complete sets. They are a degree or two cooler than the indomitable, impassioned Perlman and Ashkenazy (Decca), for example, more Classically contained than Kremer and Argerich (DG), better musically balanced than Menuhin and Kempff (also DG) and less interventionist than Faust and Melnikov (Harmonia Mundi).
Yet this is one of those cases where ‘less’ proves to be more in the long run. By avoiding any hint of big player rhetoric or self-conscious interpretative tinkering, Foyle and Štšura keep the mind focused on Beethoven’s wide-ranging inspiration and radical thought patterns. Whereas most teams invariably rejoice in the pianistic turbulence unleashed as the development section of No. 3’s opening Allegro con spirito gets underway, Foyle and Štšura particularly arrest the attention with their haunting delivery of the pulsating diminished harmonies that follow. The jaunty finale of the same sonata rejoices more in post-Mozartian semantic wrong-footing than hob-nailed booted, lederhosen-clad frolics.
The three Op. 30 sonatas – they place the sprightly G major (No. 3) first, the dark and stormy C minor (No. 2) last – are again striking for never taking the interpretative easy way out. Even in the uncharacteristically lyrical A major (No. 1), Foyle and Štšura keep their eyes on the long term rather than inflecting every tiny change of mood or harmonic shift with a knowing musical twinkle in the eye. The result is an engaging set of performances that cast fresh light on this much-recorded area of the repertoire.