COMPOSERS: Ludwig van Beethoven
ALBUM TITLE: Beethoven
WORKS: Complete violin sonatas
PERFORMER: Martin Roscoe (piano), Tamsin Little (violin)
CATALOGUE NO: Chandos CHAN 10888
It says a great deal for Tasmin Little that she has allowed pianist Martin Roscoe’s name to go first on the booklet cover. Well, these works were all published as Sonatas ‘for Piano and Violin’, and any violinist who approaches them as potential star vehicles is already guilty of a capital offence. I’ve heard, and admired performances in which violin and piano work as one: ‘two minds with but a single thought’. Here though one is very much aware of two distinct personalities, each with plenty to say about this music. There’s even a sense of friendly rivalry at times – and all to the good.
Little’s expressive style is generous and extrovert, Roscoe’s at times more inward looking – though the first movement of the Kreutzer Sonata comes across as an emotional switchback ride for both players. That’s one of the highlights of the set for me, but I’m also impressed by the way Little and Roscoe make the two following movements sound more than add-ons to that terrific opening drama. The tension is well contained in the more Classical early sonatas. Even better is the sense that the C minor Sonata, Op. 30 No. 2, is on the point of bursting out of that formal container. I’m not quite so convinced by the last Sonata, Op. 96, where Beethoven already seems on the threshold of his ‘late’ manner. Is Little’s heart in particular still with the early Classical and middle-period ‘Promethean’ Beethoven? This is an impressive achievement overall though, and beautifully recorded.