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Beethoven: Violin Sonatas, Vol. 3 (Foyle/Štšura)

Michael Foyle (violin), Maksim Štšura (piano) (Challenge Classics)

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

Violin Sonatas, Vol. 3: Violin Sonata No. 9 in A, Op. 47 ‘Kreutzer’; Violin Sonata No. 10 in G, Op. 96
Michael Foyle (violin), Maksim Štšura (piano)
Challenge Classics CC 72862   56:56 mins


The Beethoven violin sonata bonanza appears unstoppable at the moment. Yet every recording has its own distinctive personality, as witness Renaud Capuçon’s and Martha Argerich’s explosive new DG account of the ‘Kreutzer’ Sonata, which sounds for all the world like a symphonic concerto duo. Michael Foyle and Maksim Štšura, on the other hand, retain a strong sense of chamber-scale intimacy, ensuring that Beethoven’s sforzando outbursts strain at the leash, as surely he originally intended.

They are also remarkably detailed in their responses, relishing the shock of the new – more Mozart in overdrive than Franck in embryo. Harmonic and dynamic spiking that is often smothered by grand, sweeping phrases, is revealed with pristine crispness and urgency. Time and again, as witness the glorious central theme and variations, Foyle and Štšura articulate their phrasing with a deftness and clarity that subtly enhances the music’s emotional power.

The final sonata in the series, Op. 96 in G major, exchanges chest-beating heroics for time-suspending poetics, creating the haunting impression of listening in on Beethoven’s most private thoughts. Whereas the general tendency is to apply overblown rhetorical gesturing, by allowing the music to just ‘be’ in the moment, Foyle and Štšura reveal its gentle essence. The finale, in particular, is beautifully shaped, with a magical exploration of lower dynamics, topped off by joyous dancing that for once suggests the use of soft shoes in flight rather than galumphing hob-nail boots.

First-rate sonics, too, which, like the performances themselves, balance detail and warmth to perfection.


Julian Haylock