Violin Sonatas Nos 5-7
Frank Peter Zimmermann (violin), Martin Helmchen (piano)
BIS BIS-2527 (CD/SACD) 68:32 mins
It can easily be tempting for performers to emphasise the lyrical character of the first movement of the Spring Sonata at the expense of its more dramatic side. That’s not a charge which can be laid against Frank Peter Zimmermann and Martin Helmchen, whose brisk tempo and clean attack are reinforced by Zimmermann’s bright-toned Stradivarius, complemented by Helmchen’s Chris Maene piano, straight-strung in the old style. This gives especial clarity to the bass, but there’s also warmth in the timbre, which comes to the fore in the expressive Adagio, flowing with an unerring sense of calm, before the humour of the brief Scherzo, and the return of a more symphonic structure in the finale’s thematic development, with the players unanimous in dynamic shaping, phrasing and textural balance.
Although not as popular, the Op. 30 sonatas contain some of Beethoven’s finest music, except possibly the variations which form the finale of Op. 30/1. These tend to fall into formula, especially in harmony, but can’t detract from the heart-felt central Adagio – another concentrated account.
The C minor Sonata is a bigger piece altogether, and its four movements find Zimmermann and Helmchen at the top of their game, with the impetuosity and wit of the first movement in fine balance, another thoughtful Adagio, rhythmic energy in the accents in the Scherzo and easy (but not empty) virtuosity in the finale.