Beethoven: Violin Sonatas, Op. 12

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COMPOSERS: Beethoven
LABELS: Zig Zag
WORKS: Violin Sonatas, Op. 12
PERFORMER: Midori Seiler (violin), Jos van Immerseel (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: ZZT 070802

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Interpretations of the early Beethoven violin sonatas are numerous, but not too many present themselves as authentic period performances.

Here Midori Seiler, playing an 18th-century Baroque instrument with a modern reproduction of a contemporary bow, and Jos van Immerseel on a reproduction of a Walter fortepiano from Nuremberg, render alert, vivacious, tightly-focused accounts of the three Op. 12 sonatas that emphasize the young Beethoven’s closeness to Mozart in this genre.

Yet though they are (like Mozart’s) entitled sonatas for piano with the accompaniment of violin, it is easy enough for the violinist to dominate the argument, and the period instruments seem to aid the process.

As soon as one’s ears adjust to the dryer, brighter keyboard sonority one starts to enjoy an enhanced textural clarity which suits the more contrapuntal parts of the discourse admirably.

My personal benchmark in these works remains the superb accounts by Augustin Dumay and Maria João Pires. Gidon Kremer and Martha Argerich (also on DG) and Perlman and Ashkenazy (Decca) are pretty well their equals.

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But both these versions form part of complete Beethoven Violin Sonata sets, and both involve a modern piano. In period performance, Seiler and van Immerseel have the current field to themselves, and the results are well worth hearing. Calum MacDonald