LABELS: ASV Gold
ALBUM TITLE: Beethoven
WORKS: Violin Sonatas, Vol. 1: in D, Op. 12/1; in C minor, Op. 30/2; in G, Op. 96
PERFORMER: Peter Cropper (violin), Martin Roscoe (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: GLD 4023
Three quite different Beethovens are represented here. There’s the brilliant young subversive in Op. 12 No. 1, the Janus-faced tragedian and savage prankster in Op. 30 No. 2, and the lyrical poet – occasionally interrupted by a more worldly ironist – in Op. 96. It would be a very special artist indeed who could bring the three of them to life with equal success. So it’s no surprise to find that Peter Cropper and Martin Roscoe achieve variable results here.
Actually the variability is more down to Cropper than to Roscoe. Perfectionists sometimes grumble at Cropper for the rough edges in his playing, but in Op. 12 No. 1 in particular that edginess and lack of suavity is a positive advantage when combined with Cropper’s passion and intensely focused musicality. Played like this, you can imagine how explosive and unsettling Beethoven must have sounded in polite aristocratic salons and Biedermeier drawing rooms – the tiger in the parlour. Cropper’s energy and volatility are also very welcome in the C minor Sonata, and with Roscoe’s help he makes this strangely changeable work convincing on its own terms, though here it does sound very much as though it’s Cropper who’s running the show.
There are beautiful things in Op. 96, and in artistic terms the violin-piano balance is more evenly weighted (well caught by the intimate but not too close recording), but Cropper’s edginess isn’t always so welcome and in long melodic lines a little more polished smoothness would actually be an advantage. For Cropper-like virtues, from both violinist and pianist, and sustained formidable insight, the three-CD complete set from Gidon Kremer and Martha Argerich is about as good as it gets. Stephen Johnson