The Complete Violin Sonatas Vol. 2

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COMPOSERS: Beethoven
LABELS: ASV Gold
WORKS: Violin Sonatas in A, Op. 12 No. 2; in A minor, Op. 23; in F, Op. 24 (Spring); in G, Op. 30

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PERFORMER: Peter Cropper (violin), Martin Roscoe (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: GLD 4024

These feisty performances of four of Beethoven’s violin sonatas remind us that, as a rising young composer, he made a conscious effort to distance himself from the grace and elegance of Mozart and Haydn.

Take, for example, the outrageously satirical opening of the A major, Op. 12 No. 2, where the violin plays a deliberately banal waltz accompaniment to the piano’s jerky motif based on the incessant repetition of a two-note pattern; or the Scherzo of the Spring Sonata where the instruments are deliberately placed out of synchronisation with each other.

Peter Cropper seems to empathise most with the rough-hewn aspect of Beethoven’s character. Although the tonal projection is sometimes edgy, and those who demand absolute technical perfection might be put off by his occasional tendency to scramble notes in tricky passagework, the musical experience is always involving, the performances and closely-miked recording achieving a high level of adrenalin.

On the downside, neither Cropper nor Martin Roscoe are quite so convincing when Beethoven explores a more lyrical mood, as in the slow movements of the Spring Sonata and Op. 30 No. 3.

For playing that balances vivid musical dialogue with greater tonal sophistication, Kremer and Argerich on DG are generally preferable, though their self-conscious phrasing in the first movement of the Spring Sonata seems over-fussy compared to the direct no-nonsense approach of Cropper and Roscoe.

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On a more minor point, readers interested in this new release should be aware that on the copy sent for review the finale of the A minor, Op. 23, is split into two tracks, the latter running directly into the opening movement of the Spring.  Erik Levi