Beethoven: Violin Concerto; Violin Sonata No. 9 in A, Op. 47 (Kreutzer)

COMPOSERS: Beethoven
LABELS: DG
ALBUM TITLE: Beethoven
WORKS: Violin Concerto; Violin Sonata No. 9 in A, Op. 47 (Kreutzer)
PERFORMER: Vadim Repin (violin), Martha Argerich (piano); Vienna PO/Riccardo Muti
CATALOGUE NO: 477 6596
Like Isabelle Faust in her recent single-disc recording (see September, p63), Vadim Repin couples Beethoven’s Violin Concerto with the most concerto-like of his violin sonatas. Repin has the advantage of a rather more distinguished contribution from the Vienna Philharmonic under Riccardo Muti, but his view of the Concerto is dangerously relaxed. There’s no doubting the beauty of his tone, especially in pianissimo, and the manner in which he never attempts to impose his presence on the music’s overall texture is admirable, but there are moments when the music threatens to grind to a halt altogether: the closing stage of the first movement’s exposition, for instance, or the second subject as it appears both in the recapitulation and in the passage following the cadenza. All these moments are so free and dream-like in execution that the piece doesn’t really hang together as it should. There’s far greater organic unity in the less lingering account by Thomas Zehetmair; or, if you prefer a more traditional approach, Wolfgang Schneiderhan’s classic DG recording still stands up very well.

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After Repin’s introverted account of the Concerto it was hard to imagine the result of teaming him up with the fiery Martha Argerich for the Kreutzer Sonata. In fact, Repin rises to the occasion splendidly. Argerich has previous recorded the piece both with Gidon Kremer for DG, and with Itzhak Perlman; and if the tarantella-like finale doesn’t throw off quite as many sparks on this new version, the performance as a whole is undeniably impressive. Misha Donat