Beethoven

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Beethoven
LABELS: Coro
ALBUM TITLE: Beethoven
WORKS: Violin Sonatas Nos 6-8, Op. 30/1-3
PERFORMER: Susanna Ogata (violin), Ian Watson (fortepiano)
CATALOGUE NO: COR 16154

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There are by now countless recordings of Beethoven’s sonatas for piano and violin. Indeed it is hard to think of an important or famous violinist who hasn’t recorded them, usually with an equally distinguished pianist. Some of those recordings are classics and will remain so as long as anyone listens to these great works, Clara Haskil’s and Arthur Grumiaux’s, to name just one. What makes this new series interesting is the combined sound of the fortepiano and a violin
of the same period, different from
any other recording or performance I’ve heard. 

The sound is far brighter, which means, among other things, that the violin tone is less songful, and that the total effect is much more forward, and at first strikes you as almost strident. Drama seems to come to the fore, lyricism to recede. By the time I got to the second of the set, the great C minor Sonata No. 7, the second time round, I was adapting to the comparative lack of contrast in the playing. Normally in the last movement of that work one has the intrepid piano play its lonely and heroic main theme, and the more lyrical violin taking it up as more anxious or supplicating. Here the only contrast is one of timbre, not of expressiveness. Once you adjust to that, passim, the results are refreshing and invigorating, with the early-middle period of Beethoven’s career emerging in a way that brings these works closer to the all-too-famous Kreutzer Sonata. I shan’t get rid of my older sets, but I shall certainly keep this disc close to hand.

Michael Tanner

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