All products and recordings are chosen independently by our editorial team. This review contains affiliate links and we may receive a commission for purchases made. Please read our affiliates FAQ page to find out more.

Beethoven: Violin Sonatas Nos 8-10 (Zimmermann/Helmchen)

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

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

The Violin Sonatas, Vol. 3: Nos 8-10
Frank Peter Zimmermann (violin), Martin Helmchen (piano)
BIS BIS-2537 (CD/SACD)   79:13 mins


We are currently experiencing one of the most exciting periods in recording. We have been especially lucky over the last decade or so, with captivating recordings of Beethoven’s violin sonatas that (with rose-tinted spectacles firmly removed) make some golden-agers sound decidedly routine by comparison.

Frank Peter Zimmermann and Martin Helmchen are an outstanding team, whose latest release brings their three-disc survey to an uplifting conclusion. The ‘little’ No. 8 (it feels almost like a sonatina when juxtaposed against the mighty Kreutzer) is kept light-as-air, with any passing musical in-jokes for the cognoscenti thrown off with a conjurer’s sleight-of-hand. One of the trickiest movements in the cycle to bring off convincingly is the central Minuetto, yet here it is kept innocently flowing and (where appropriate) dancing, gently inflected with exquisite subtlety.

These are readings that also have their interpretative arm firmly on the structural tiller. Especially telling is the heightened sense of expectation these remarkable players generate in the imposing introduction to the Kreutzer Sonata’s opening movement, which is played complete with extemporised asides from Zimmermann over the music’s galvanising dramatic pauses.

Finest of all is a reading of the elusive Op. 96 Sonata that allows the music to dream a little, capturing to perfection the composer’s often undervalued lyrical muse in all its captivating sincerity.


Julian Haylock