Violin Sonatas Nos 7 & 10
James Ehnes (violin), Andrew Armstrong (piano)
Onyx ONYX 4209 51:37 mins
Beethoven composed his Violin Sonata No. 7 in C minor in 1802, the year of his Second Symphony and his ‘Heiligenstadt Testament’ lamenting his encroaching deafness. It is a large-scale, emotionally wide-ranging work that surely challenged all but the most accomplished amateur performers; its flowing, increasingly ornate slow movement and pert scherzo are enclosed by a fiercely driven opening movement and an abrupt, explosive finale.
Written ten years later, around the time of the Seventh and Eighth Symphonies, and revised for publication in 1816, Sonata No. 10 seems to come from another world, of gentle, introspective lyricism in its opening movement and decorative, aria-like Adagio, and serene cheerfulness in its variation finale. Such music seems especially apt to the contained luminosity of James Ehnes’s violin playing, the pristine pianism of Andrew Armstrong and their remarkable rapport, playing as if one.
Yet they are no less impressive in the C minor Sonata, with a cogent grip on the motivic structures of its outer movements and a perfect balance between the passages of repose, volatility and sudden surprise in the Adagio. Recorded in a roomy yet intimate acoustic, this disc rounds off what is surely one of the most satisfying cycles of the Beethoven violin sonatas of the last decade.