Beethoven – Violin Sonatas Nos. 3 & 9
WORKS: Violin Sonata No. 3 in E flat, Op. 12, No. 3; No. 9 in A, Op. 47 (Kreutzer)
PERFORMER: Viktoria Mullova (violin), Kristian Bezuidenhout (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: Onyx 4050
Even today there appear to be few star violinists prepared to give gut strings and a ‘period’ approach a try. Yet Viktoria Mullova has not only been doing this for years but also shows a profoundly un-diva-ish appreciation of the way the relationship between the violin and the piano changes in these two sonatas.
Op. 12 No. 3 is still in most respects a typical Classical-era ‘sonata for keyboard with violin accompaniment’. In the Kreutzer Sonata the two instruments are clearly equals, thrusting and parrying each other expressively as well as occasionally singing in duet.
So in the earlier sonata it’s Kristian Bezuidenhout’s agility and minute clarity of articulation that dominate, while Mullova responds – beautifully enough, but often with surprising discretion. Right from the start of the Kreutzer Mullova steps centre stage, as Beethoven obviously meant her to. The relationship between these two players – both strong personalities – adds considerably to the excitement in the first movement.
On the down side, this isn’t a very generous disc in terms of quantity, and I would wait to see what Alina Ibragimova and Cédric Tiberghien do with these works in their ongoing Wigmore Hall Live series before making a modern recommendation.
In their first volume, reviewed last month, Ibragimova and Tiberghien turn up the electricity, generating levels of warmth that Mullova and Bezuidenhout never quite match.
For something still finer, the Perlman and Ashkenazy complete four-disc set is hardly more expensive than buying two separate full-price discs. So why not treat yourself? Stephen Johnson