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Beethoven: Violin Sonatas Nos 1-4

Frank Peter Zimmermann (violin), Martin Helmchen (piano) (BIS)

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

Violin Sonatas Nos 1-4
Frank Peter Zimmermann (violin), Martin Helmchen (piano)
BIS BIS-2517   72:40 mins


Inspired by the great violinist Rodolphe Kreutzer, Beethoven’s first three violin sonatas were early adumbrations of his mature style. They were not universally admired. The reviewer in the Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung, who played them ‘diligently and intently’, wrote that he felt like someone who set out for a pleasurable walk through an attractive wood with a genial companion, but emerged ‘tired and exhausted, without joy. Erudite, erudite, and ever more erudite – and no nature, no song!’

Yet how elegantly unforced these works come over today. Zimmermann’s sound is light, flexible, and finely shaded, with Martin Helmchen delivering effortless virtuosity. The opening of the First Sonata brings an unleashing of exuberant energy, while the opening of the Second is the epitome of mercurial high spirits. The Adagio of the Third is grace incarnate, and the ebullient Rondoreflects Beethoven’s Houdini-like ability to get into and out of conventional tonal procedures. In the Fourth Sonata – closely related to the ‘Spring’ Sonata – we sense the emergence of both Beethoven’s muscular playfulness and the heroic mode to come. These recordings are conversations by a perfect instrumental pairing.

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Michael Church