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Beethoven: Complete Violin Sonatas
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"Sonatas for piano with violin" was the way Beethoven initially thought of these works, and indeed the earliest of the sonatas reflect that attitude. But the genre grew with Beethoven into a fully-fledged virtuoso journey for the combination. Young Hungarian violinist Krist+Ýf Bar+¡ti and pianist Kl+¡ra W++rtz approach the works with youthful vim and verve all their own.
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As to the sound, yes the recording is detailed and slightly "analytical" as opposed to overly warm and swampy. However, there is satisfyingly sufficient ambiance and warmth to bring much enjoyment and prevents them from sounding at all cold and certainly not "antispectic". As to the balance, I find it just perfect - exactly what you hear in live performances. There is no way the violin is going to sound as "big" or prominent as a full-sized concert grand piano in real life. Those who expect that to be the case have become accustomed to listening to recordings that are engineered to be that way, rather than getting out and hearing in person what the real thing sounds like in a real concert hall. Those who prefer a less prominent piano presence might seek out recordings made with original instruments. The period fortepianos produce a much smaller, boxier sound that may allow the violin to seem louder.
All that being said, I find the balance on these CDs to be very satisfactory. Not at any time do I find the violin "undernourished" or "under recorded". The violin tone itself is just slightly on the bright side - exactly what a real life Stradivarius sounds like (and very similar to the tone Perlman produces on his recordings) but never thin or wiry by any means. Perhaps my sound system is of a higher quality than some others who have expressed issues with the recording quality, but I hear no reason for anyone to hesitate buying this set on recorded grounds or interpretive quality. This is a most rewarding and enjoyable set, with natural and realistic recorded sound.
While the Grumiaux/Haskil duo was a great one their recordings are well known and have been reissued multiple times. It is the Schiff/Felner discs which is the bigger reason why I bought this set. Schiff is an underrated cellist who I've always liked and whose recordings rarely pop up during my record hunts. I'm glad to have these at a bargain price.
I have discovered that there is nearly always a problem balancing these two instruments in performances using a modern piano. A Steinway is quite simply much louder than the instruments used in Beethoven's day and almost invariably drowns the violin. On recordings this is mostly adjusted. Interestingly enough, when played on period instruments this problem does not exist. I have heard one live. Both piano and violin around 1800 were quieter, but it was the piano in particular, which was a lot softer. For a recording which illustrates this point, listen to Midori Seiler and von Immerseel in the Beethoven sonatas or Mullova and Bezuidenhout. I am not talking about the quality of the interpretation, merely the balance between the instruments. Whether you like HIP or not is up each listener personally.
So, all in all I think that JSA has been too severe in his or her criticism. May I give a recommendation: Try the new set with Leonidas Kavakos and Pace on Decca. Here the balance is ideal, although played on a Steinway and a modernised Stradivarius.
My comparisons include Kremer/Argerich, Capucon/Brially, Ibragimova,Tiberghien, Kavakos/Pace and Faust/Melnikov - all complete sets as well as Mullova/Bezuidenhout (single CD) and excerpts from Midori Seiler/von Immerseel.