Beethoven, Shostakovich: Beethoven Violin Sonata No. 7 in C minor

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COMPOSERS: Beethoven,Shostakovich
LABELS: Warner
ALBUM TITLE: Beethoven / Shostakovich String Sonatas
WORKS: Beethoven Violin Sonata No. 7 in C minor
PERFORMER: Julian Rachlin (violin, viola)
CATALOGUE NO: 2564 61949-2
Such is the force of Julian Rachlin’s personality that you are almost totally mesmerised by the sheer brilliance of his playing throughout these two warmly recorded discs. The imaginative Tziganov arrangement of ten of Shostakovich’s Piano Preludes Op. 34 provides a wonderful platform for him to demonstrate an amazing range of colour and encapsulate a bewildering array of moods with a razor-sharp degree of characterisation.

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Beethoven’s C minor Violin Sonata demands a similar degree of concentration, and Rachlin doesn’t disappoint in the forceful sturm und drang intensity of the outer movements and the poetic reflection of the Adagio. Itamar Golan is equally fine matching Rachlin in every turn of phrase and ensuring that the ensemble is exemplary at all times. Yet despite such qualities, I wondered whether Golan was at times being too deferential to his partner. What this work requires is some of the gladiatorial combative frisson that giants such as Argerich and Kremer bring to the music.

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Any lingering doubts about the balance of the Rachlin/Golan partnership in Beethoven evaporate when it comes to Shostakovich’s Viola Sonata. Nearly 41 minutes long, this performance must be one of slowest on disc, but when faced with an interpretation of such strength and insight, such a statistic is meaningless. Once again it’s the sheer concentration with which Rachlin and Golan draw the timeless melodic lines in the concluding Adagio that is both hypnotic and overwhelming. Seldom can the coda have evoked such a reluctant yet resigned farewell to life – tentatively reaching out towards the inevitability of death. Erik Levi