LABELS: Arte Nova
WORKS: Violin Sonata No. 1; Violin Sonata No. 2; Violin Sonata No. 3
PERFORMER: Alban Beikircher (violin), Benedikt Koehlen (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 74321 80774 2
There are at least four prerequisites for a first-class performance of almost any extended work by Schumann: warmth and variety of tone colour, a wide-ranging rhythmic vocabulary, a keen sense of characterisation, and an ability to move from one mood to another without fragmentation of the overall structure. On the first count, these performances are near-exemplary. The sound from both players is indeed warm, the feeling is full of Schumann’s characteristic ardour and the intonation is wonderfully consistent. There isn’t a harsh tone or a sour note from beginning to end, nor is there a single bar that isn’t informed by a high degree of musicianship. The musical conversation is alive, sensitive and responsive throughout. It’s only when one turns to the necessarily subjective matter of interpretation that doubts arise. What I find lacking is sufficient variety on virtually all counts. I miss both Schumann’s intense vitality and passion and his moments of almost painful immediacy, his almost childlike unguardedness – none of which can be fully conveyed without a greater variety of rhythmic emphasis and articulation than I find here.
That said, there are many moments of true poignancy. A more unbuttoned and compelling approach to both of the first two sonatas, however, is to be found in the live-wire performances of Kremer and Argerich on DG, which have at least one listener on the edge of his chair. But if you want all three sonatas, you won’t find better than Kuerti and Kaplan on Arabesque. Jeremy Siepmann