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Beethoven's sonatas for violin and piano


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Initial post: Apr 20, 2012 8:12:41 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Apr 20, 2012 8:13:32 AM PDT
Gwac says:
When I first started listening to CM a couple years ago, I found LvB's violin sonatas at the library and was thoroughly underwhelmed, except for the first movement of the Op. 47 "Kreutzer". The recording was Schneiderhan/Seeman from Universal's "Trio" series.

Now that I'm older and my tastes have mellowed, I am enjoying these works on a variety of recordings, from Grumiaux/Haskil to Kremer/Argerich (Spotify), and bits and pieces of Perlman/Ashkenazy and Dumay/Pires (incomplete on spotify). In particular I have been listening to the Op. 30 sonatas, which are fine specimens of his "late early" period.

Which of these works count among your favorites, and which recordings do you most cherish?

Posted on Apr 20, 2012 8:20:00 AM PDT
[Deleted by Amazon on May 16, 2012 8:25:10 AM PDT]

Posted on Apr 20, 2012 8:33:42 AM PDT
The Serkin/Busch duo was excellent in these works but there were other famous pairs - Bartok/Szigeti, Rachmaninov/Kreisler, Kulenkampff/Kempff, Schnabel/Szigeti, Goldberg/Kraus, Huberman/Friedman, Thibaud/Cortot, Haendel/Mewton-Wood, Dubois/Maas, Szigeti/Horszowski, Grumiaux/Arrau...

Posted on Apr 20, 2012 8:56:15 AM PDT
Piso Mojado says:
Charles Whitehead names most of the best. The Kreutzer is a study in itself. There are also two versions of it by Heifetz and Moiseiwitsch. One I love and laugh over is the "Spring" sonata by Szigeti and Horszowski. I like the complete set by Pires and Dumay. A Vienna duo on Camerata are marvelously recorded but not as penetratingly played as some others named. The live "Kreutzer" by Bartok and Szigeti is as Romantic as any.

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 20, 2012 9:15:16 AM PDT
I'm partial to Op. 30; some of my favorite Beethoven is from that period (like the Op. 31 sonatas).

As for recordings, I've accumulated quite a few, and all have merit:

Stern/Istomin: Beethoven: The Violin Sonatas

Kremer/Argerich (probably my desert island choice): Beethoven: Die Violinsonaten

Suk/Panenka: Complete Violin Sonatas (a pretty stunning bargain)

Schneiderhan/Seemann:Beethoven: Complete Violin Sonatas (I strongly prefer this stereo set over Schneiderhan's mono set with Kempff)

Dawes/Coop: Beethoven Complete Sonatas for Piano & Violin. Performers are otherwise unknown to me, but this is superb chamber music playing, in exceptional sound.

Rosand/Flissler: Beethoven: The Complete Violin Sonatas. Another fabulous bargain, although the recording favors the violin a bit too much.

Dumay/Pires: Beethoven: Complete Violin Sonatas. These two have recorded a great deal together, and it shows.

Faust/Melnikov: Beethoven: Complete Sonatas for Piano and Violin. Great playing and sound, but the packaging stinks.

If you want HIP, the choices are pretty limited. There's one recommendable complete set, by Huve and Fleezanis Complete Sonatas for Pianoforte & Violin (Box), which I described in a review as "a trifle grim". But if you want to hear something truly memorable and hair-raising (in a good way), try this disc played by Evan Johnson and Anthony Newman Beethoven Violin Sonatas: Sonatas for Violin and Fortepiano, Op. 24 (Spring) and Op. 47 (Kreutzer).

Bill

Posted on Apr 20, 2012 10:09:30 AM PDT
MacDoom says:
I grew up on Ashkenazy/Perlman, probably to such an extent that they have become the unshakeable reference in my brain. I love these works to bits.

Posted on Apr 20, 2012 10:21:06 AM PDT
John Ruggeri says:
This performance of the Spring Sonata has always delighted me.

Szeryng/Rubinstein - Beethoven Sonata #5 "Spring" [ Complete ]
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mAcWGVC4Nqc&feature=results_main&playnext=1&list=PLAF8DC6B5D4A0FB41

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 20, 2012 10:30:28 AM PDT
Gwac, have you gone back and listened to the Schneiderhan/Seemann set? I wonder if it was the music or the performance that put you off...

Bill

Posted on Apr 20, 2012 10:46:15 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Apr 20, 2012 11:02:55 AM PDT
Mandryka says:
I dislike Schneiderhan/Seemann because Seemann doesn't seem a very interesting pianist and even Schneiderhan is less elegant and noble there than in the earlier record with Kempff. That Schneiderman/Kempff set is one I cherish in fact, because of the aristocratic manner.

But people who want a more fiery style will have to go elsewhere for sure -- and if it's a set of all the sonatas that you want then I really would recommend Francescatti /Casadesus or Kremer/Argerich, despite Kremer's tone (it doesn't bother me at all -- but people are sensitive about that sort of thing, so it's best to check)

But apart from Schneiderhan/Kempff the most interesting performances are away from the sets -- Grumiaux /Kappel; Richter (who recorded quite a few of them with Kagan and Oistrakh); Gilels/Kogan and . And most of all Kulenkampff/Kempff.

Has anyone heard a good transfer of Grumiaux/Haskill?

Gould/Menuhin anybody?

One very good recital I was at was Alina Ibragimova and Cedric Tiberghien at the Wigmore HAll, which has made it to CD -- worth checking out I would say.

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 20, 2012 10:53:23 AM PDT
Mandryka -

I should probably try Schneiderhan/Kempff again, but I was disappointed at his slack, rather soft-edged playing. Seemann seemed, at least, a bit more assertive.

Thanks for mentioning Francescatti/Casadesus, another of my favorites that I simply forgot about momentarily. The complete set, though, is hard to find; it was only issued in France and is now presumably OOP.

Bill

Posted on Apr 20, 2012 10:54:06 AM PDT
KenOC says:
A couple of notes on the violin sonatas.

A contemporary reviewer of the Kreutzer Sonata wrote this convoluted and somewhat backhanded compliment: "When two virtuosos for whom nothing is difficult enough; who have sufficient intelligence and skills; and who in spite of the spirit that this work is imbued with and in spite of the most peculiar eccentricities contained therein are not perturbed by any of it -- when two such virtuosos find each other and study the work (for they would have to do that); when they wait for the hour in which they can enjoy the most grotesque (provided that it has been produced with intelligence); and when they play it in this hour -- then they will gain full pleasure from it."

As March says, the Op. 96 is far less showy. It was written for performance by the violinist Pierre Rode, who seems to have been quite the classicist. Beethoven wrote, "In our finales we like to have fairly noisy rushing passages, but this does not suite Rode's taste, and hampered me somewhat. However, everything ought to well on Tuesday."

Posted on Apr 20, 2012 12:02:16 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Apr 21, 2012 8:28:52 AM PDT
I've been disappointed with recent recordings that I've heard--I found Faust & Melnikov to be interpretatively weird at times. Probably the best set that I've heard among recent recordings has come from Renaud Capucon & Frank Braley--but I don't feel overly compelled to recommend it, even though it's certainly good: Beethoven: Complete Sonatas for Violin & Piano. Grumiaux and Haskil are excellent, but the sound quality has always been dreadful on CD--haven't found a good release yet. Grumiaux with Arrau on Eloquence fares better--Beethoven: Sonatas for Violin & Piano Nos. 1, 2, 4, 5, 7, 8. I agree with Mandryka about Schneiderhan/Seemann, and would add that I also disliked Schneiderhan's brisk tempi throughout. Seeman is one of those pianists who's always in forward drive, he never lingers, or pauses, or breathes. (His piano style is better suited to Bach than Beethoven.)

My benchmark box set is by David Oistrakh & Lev Oborin on Phillips, but it probably could use a remastering: Beethoven: Sonatas for Violin and Piano. Oistrakh's 'Spring' sonata is a special favorite of mine. Perlman & Ashkenazy are good too, offering more youthful interpretations than Oistrakh--one of Perlman's best recordings IMO: Beethoven: Violin Sonatas "Kreutzer" & "Spring". Violinist Josef Suk and pianist Jan Panenka also give super fine performances, but their recordings on Supraphon Japan disappoint with a harsh, grating violin sound (it's not Suk's tone): I found it unlistenable. Recently, these recordings appear to have been remastered by Supraphon, but I haven't heard the new issue: Complete Violin Sonatas--at $13.70 it's certainly an attractive bargain. Even so, I'm wary of Supraphon--you never know what you're going to get from them. It's a shame that many of Suk's recordings haven't received first rate remasters from Supraphon, or that the Denon hasn't newly remastered them (many were last remastered in the 1980s). As for Dumay & Pires, I liked Pires' piano playing a lot, but not so much Dumay, whose Beethoven can sound whiney at times. (It may have been partly due to the recorded sound, which I disliked.)

Unlike others, I'm fond of Menuhin & Kempff. Admittedly Menuhin's bow arm shakes slightly, and his intonation isn't always flawless, but I found his musicianship to be so profound & beautiful that I didn't care about the flaws--I'd rather hear this kind of violin playing anytime over the cold objectivity of much of today's playing:

Beethoven: The Complete Violin Sonatas, Vol. 1
Beethoven: The Complete Violin Sonatas, Vol. 2 [Germany]
or an individual DG release, with listening samples: Beethoven: Violin Sonatas (Spring & Kreutzer )

Among those I haven't heard, I'd be curious to hear Victoria Mullova's recent account on period instruments (or partially so?): Beethoven: Violin Sonatas Nos 3 & 9. Alina Ibragimova has also received excellent reviews for her 'live' at Wigmore Hall set, as Mandryka mentions above.

EDIT: Piso has below reminded me of the Busch-Serkin recordings, which I forgot to mention--those are probably my favorites among historic recordings.

Posted on Apr 20, 2012 12:08:21 PM PDT
[Deleted by Amazon on May 16, 2012 8:21:44 AM PDT]

Posted on Apr 20, 2012 12:19:20 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Apr 20, 2012 12:21:31 PM PDT
March--"eccentric' would have been a better choice of words for Faust & Melnikov's set than "weird", even though you were using it to describe Fazil Say's recording. I like Menuhin's Kreutzer.

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 20, 2012 12:19:46 PM PDT
Gwac says:
Bill,

Thanks for your suggestions. Yes, I have gone back to the Schneiderhan/Seeman a bit in the last week or so, and it's hard to put my finger on it but I would describe it as a kind of bland quality that drives me away from that set. I am quite picky when it comes to violin recordings (it's easy for me to find things I don't like), so you can chalk it up to bad taste if you like ;-)

Posted on Apr 20, 2012 12:26:06 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Apr 20, 2012 2:05:25 PM PDT
Piso Mojado says:
I've also enjoyed Vengerov, Perlman/Ashkenazy, and Francescatti/Casadesus. Of many famous "Kreutzers", Adolf Busch and Rudolf Serkin are as good as any, and better than that in certain details like their arpeggios in opposite directions at the end of the slow movement. A real embarrassment of riches, with Hubermann/Friedmann, Busch/Serkin, Thibaud/Cortot, and Heifetz/Moiseiwitsch.

I saw Perlman play it with a pianist who was his regular accompanist then, many years ago. Szymon Goldberg and Lili Kraus are up there with the best. It's a virtuoso sonata that doesn't quite make Beethoven's first tier for me. Anyone else read Tolstoy's story about it?

I've never heard Fritz Kreisler's recording with Franz Rupp and probably should.

Posted on Apr 21, 2012 6:03:25 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jun 2, 2012 10:50:10 AM PDT
Some more Beethoven Violin Sonata performances have come to mind, since I wrote my post yesterday, which are worth mentioning: Mandryka mentions Oleg Kagan & Sviatoslav Richter above--which I like too. After David Oistrakh died, Richter began to perform regularly with Kagan, who had been a student of Oistrakh's. Two of their earliest LP releases are now on EMI (Beethoven & Mozart Violin Sonatas): Violin Sonatas. Years later, after Kagan had died of cancer, the label founded in his memory, Live Classics, came out with a volume of 'live' Kagan-Richter performances of Beethoven Violin Sonatas, recorded in 1975: Beethoven - O.Kagan, S.Richter (Vol.IX). These are very fine, but there is also another worthwhile Beethoven volume in this series, with pianist Vassily Lobanov, recorded in the mid-1980s, which tends to get overlooked: Beethoven: Edition Oleg Kagan, volume 8.

Speaking of Russian violinists, there's also a recording with violinist Leonid Kogan and Emil Gilels on Olympia-Meloydia that offers sensational playing, but is not in the very best sound: Leonid Kogan, Emil Gilels - L.Beethoven: Sonatas No. 3, E Flat Major, Op. 12 No. 5, "Spring", Op. 24. The same is true of Oistrakh & Richter on Doremi: Beethoven: 3 Sonatas for Violin & Piano. If anyone knows of Oistrakh/Richter Beethoven Violin Sonata recordings that are in better sound than this Doremi issue, please let me know. Oistrakh also recorded a number of Beethoven sonatas with pianist Frida Bauer: here's one issue from Prague, which unfortunately has become pricey: Beethoven: Violin Sonata No. 5,Op.24 / Brahms: Violin Sonata Nos. 1 & 3,Op.78,108.

As for period instrument sets, I know of only the set by violinist Jaap Schröder & Jos Van Immerseel on Deutsche Harmonia Mundi: here's an individual issue from the set: Beethoven: Violin Sonatas.

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 21, 2012 6:04:44 AM PDT
Immerseel also recorded the early sonatas with Midori Seiler.

Posted on Apr 22, 2012 9:30:49 AM PDT
R. Schroeder says:
It does not look like anyone has mentioned the Zukerman Set. Looks like it is OOP now, but I have had it for a while and have never been unhappy with it, very satisfying overall. Perhaps not quite on the same level as Ashkenazy/Perlman though. I too have the Schneiderhan/Seeman set and find it quite good in the "lighter" or "Softer" sonatas, but the more dynamic ones (no. 7 and no. 9) seem underwhelming in that set.

If you can find Zukerman for a good price, I would recommend it.

Posted on Apr 22, 2012 9:47:19 AM PDT
HB says:
Although, I love all the Beethoven sonatas, my favorites are 2,5, 7, 9 and 10. Here is an obscure recording that is quite satisfying but with a unique approach:

Les 10 Sonates Pour Violon Et Piano

Posted on Apr 22, 2012 11:23:10 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Apr 22, 2012 11:24:01 AM PDT
HB--In case you don't know, Petr Messiereur was the first violinist of the renowned Talich Quartet for over a quarter of a century. I've not heard those recordings, but having performed all of Beethoven's string quartets must give a violinist special insights in the violin sonatas.

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 22, 2012 11:29:10 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Apr 22, 2012 11:32:44 AM PDT
HB says:
"HB--In case you don't know, Petr Messiereur was the first violinist for the renowned Talich Quartet for over a quarter of a century."

M.R.,

Thanks for the tip. I had no idea, although I do have the Talich set of the complete Mozart String Quintets. That set is outstanding and like the set of the Beethoven Violin Sonatas, a bargain 3CD set from the Calliope label. I might have bought both sets at the same time and never made the connection as to Petr Messiereur.

Mozart: Complete String Quintets, Clarinet Quintet

Posted on Apr 24, 2012 2:24:12 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Apr 25, 2012 8:29:11 AM PDT
Two digital sets that haven't been mentioned so far are Anne-Sophie Mutter's set on DG, with pianist Lambert Orkis: Beethoven: The Violin Sonatas, and Pamela Frank's set with her father, the pianist Claude Frank: Beethoven: The 10 Sonatas for Violin & Piano. Anyone like either of these? I have heard Mutter in the Spring and Kreutzer sonatas on hybrid SACD, and at first thought they were eccentric interpretations, but they've grown on me: Beethoven: Spring & Kreutzer Sonatas. I don't know the rest of her set, however.

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 24, 2012 3:43:07 PM PDT
Piso Mojado says:
M . R. Simpson -- I saw Mutter and Lambert Orkis play them here at the end of their tour and did not care for them at all. He still wore a cast on one leg from an accident but there was nothing to mitigate her.

Posted on Apr 30, 2012 7:46:22 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Apr 30, 2012 7:47:29 PM PDT
Gwac says:
I ended up buying Perlman and Ashkenazy. Although they don't count among my very favorite artists on their respective instruments (I've heard more Perlman than Ashkenazy), I think their approach to these sonatas is very convincing - dramatic but also beautiful when necessary. I like that Perlman is recorded somewhat closely so the middle and lower registers of the violin are brought forward. The mid-70s analogue sound is very good and is competitive with digital sets IMO. Certainly I like it more than the sound they got on their later Brahms set (still good, but with that nasal quality typical of EMI recordings of this era).

But I also find lots of charm in Grumiaux and Haskil's performances. I have been particularly in love with the Op. 96 sonata in the last week, and I think their recording is my favorite. Although Haskil is recorded somewhat distantly, Grumiaux's distinctive tone is captured quite nicely. I am happy to return to this set despite the sonic deficiencies.
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