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The Kreutzer Project

Colin Jacobsen (violin), Karen Ouzenian (cello); The Knights/Eric Jacobsen (Avie)

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

The Kreutzer Project
Beethoven: Violin Sonata No. 9 in A, Op. 47 ‘Kreutzer’ (orch. C Jacobsen); Anna Clyne: Shorthand*; Colin Jacobsen: Kreutzings; Janáček: String Quartet No. 1, ‘Kreutzer’ (orch. MP Atkinson)
Colin Jacobsen (violin), *Karen Ouzenian (cello); The Knights/Eric Jacobsen
Avie AV2555   75:11 mins

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Colin Jacobsen’s orchestration of Beethoven’s Kreutzer Sonata is mostly convincing – there are a few places where the piano figuration doesn’t translate well, and sometimes the texture is congested at climaxes. But, had you never heard the original, you might accept this as a viable slice of Beethoven. I could do with a broader tonal palette from the soloist, Colin Jacobsen himself, especially in the variations in the Andante, but the outer movements are alert and buoyant, with colourful playing in the wind section.

The Janáček doesn’t come off as convincingly in its orchestral dress, as the composer had such a precise ear for the fit of his musical material to the string quartet: massed strings give too lush an effect when the music needs lean strength. There are hints of real Janáček in the use of wind and brass, even if the timpani and side drum are sometimes intrusive, but this is only a qualified success, despite the intensity of the performance by The Knights.

Between these pillars are two new works which refer to Beethoven and Janáček, and in Kreutzings to the French violinist Rodolphe Kreutzer himself. His violin studies still plague students, and Jacobsen exploits the obsessive repetition of arpeggio patterns, which find an echo in some of Janáček’s writing, and pushes them to new limits. Shorthand is an elegiac piece for much of its length, and packs a real emotional punch, with cellist Karen Ouzounian’s passionate playing leading the way. At one point, Janáček is transformed into a klezmer dance: those two worlds are not that far apart.

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Martin Cotton