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Beethoven: Violin Sonatas 4, 5 & 7 (Mullova/Beatson)

Viktoria Mullova (violin), Alasdair Beatson (piano) (Onyx)

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5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

Violin Sonatas Nos 4, 5 & 7
Viktoria Mullova (violin), Alasdair Beatson (piano)
Onyx ONYX 4221   66:37 mins

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Incredibly, it is ten years since Viktoria Mullova last recorded Beethoven violin sonatas – a scintillating coupling of Nos 3 and 9 with Kristian Bezuidenhout (ONYX 4050). In terms of their dramatic rethinking of texture, balance, articulation and expression, these performances form a vital part of the bracingly fresh interpretative emphasis on this music evinced by the likes of Faust/Melnikov (Harmonia Mundi), Ibragimova/Tiberghien (Wigmore Hall) and Sepec/Staier (Harmonia Mundi).

Recorded in July last year, Mullova, playing a 1750 Guadagnini with gut strings and a Ralph Ashmead classical bow, and Alasdair Beatson on a replica of an 1805 Walter fortepiano by Paul McNulty, immediately arrest attention with their account of the Op. 23 Sonata that captures its outer movements’ restless A minor hectoring and dynamic explosiveness. With Clive Brown’s new Bärenreiter edition to hand, there is a feeling of a fresh discovery both here and in the elusive, tonic major central Andante, poised between the carefree and hints of the forlorn. More than usual, one is made aware of the profound difference between this scherzoso interlude and the true (Adagio) slow movement of the Spring Sonata, composed at much the same time.

The C minor of Op. 30 No. 2 inspires the most impassioned playing, Mullova using an exquisitely subtle range of vibrato, from a gloriously pure senza to gentle inflections that both soothe and insinuate. Beatson articulates Beethoven’s occasionally menacing bass lines with relish and a palpable sense of opening the fortepiano’s expressive horizons.

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Julian Haylock