Shiokawa and Schiff perform Bach, Beethoven and Busoni

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COMPOSERS: Beethoven,Busoni,JS Bach
LABELS: ECM
ALBUM TITLE: JS Bach, Beethoven, Busoni
WORKS: JS Bach Sonata for Violin and Harpsichord No. 3 in E, BWV 1016; Beethoven Sonata No. 10 in G; Busoni Sonata No. 2 in E minor
PERFORMER: Yuuko Shiokawa (violin), András Schiff (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 481 5767

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Listening to violinist Yuuko Shiokawa and her pianist husband András Schiff is to be reminded that in the Classical era, duo sonatas were usually designated as ‘for piano with the accompaniment of…’. Not that Schiff overwhelms, but so often his musical personality tends to have first call on the listening ear. Of course the trio sonata textures of the Bach Sonata inevitably find him shouldering two thirds of the argument; but even so, a beautifully coloured chord in the Busoni, a strategically pointed bass trill in the Beethoven can detonate an illuminating ambush.

The programming here is astute. While that hyphenated phenomenon known as Bach- Busoni is decoupled, other couplings are encouraged. The Finale of Busoni’s Op. 36a is a
set of (arguably over-extended) variations on a Bach chorale, while Beethoven’s G major Sonata similarly espouses variation form – to very different effect.

The Bach is beautifully realised, Schiff relishing a serene duetting rapport with Shiokawa in the second Adagio, and, despite a measured tempo, coaxing a beguiling sparkle out of the first Allegro. In the Busoni, Shiokawa’s innate cantabile comes into its own in the shadowy variations – having robbed the ‘Tarantella’ of some of its truculence – and she’s particularly at home in the gemütlichkeit of the central Trio of Beethoven’s Scherzo (if not quite incisive enough in the carefully calibrated sforzandos of its spiky frame). There might be ties that bind the Busoni and Beethoven, but Beethoven’s Violin Sonata swansong, a miracle of trills and aerated felicities, turns out to be the perfect foil. 

Paul Riley