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Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Violin Sonatas Vol. 3

No. 8 in G major Op. 30/3 (1801-02) [16:12]
No. 9 in A major Op. 47 Kreutzer (1803) [29:19]
No. 10 in G major Op. 96 (1812) [24:47]
Joseph Fuchs (violin)
Artur Balsam (piano)
rec. Pythian Temple, New York, 1952
NAXOS HISTORICAL 8.111253 [70:18]

Experience Classicsonline

This is the final instalment in a three CD conspectus - available singly - of the very first complete survey of the Beethoven violin sonatas on long-playing discs. I reviewed the other two discs in October 2008.
For the task American Decca selected the doughty Artur Balsam (1906-1994) alongside Joseph Fuchs (1899-1997). Balsam worked with Milstein, Menuhin, Goldberg, Francescatti and Szigeti. Polish-born, he studied in Lodz and later made a career in Berlin until the rise of the National Socialists compelled a move to the USA. Fuchs’ longevity encompassed activity well outside the established classical canon. He premiered Nicolai Lopatnikoff’s Violin Concerto in 1944-45 with the NBCSO conducted by Frank Black. A Ford Foundation grant enabled him to commission Piston’s Second Violin Concerto and in 1960 premiered it with the NYPO and Bernstein. He also gave first performances of concertos by Ben Weber and Mario Peragallo as well as the revised Vaughan Williams violin sonata with Balsam. Fuchs was concertmaster of the Cleveland Orchestra until 1940 when he felt the call of a solo career.
Turning to the present CD I should note that there is occasional hastiness in the passagework of the opening of No.8. Otherwise it receives a reading of admirable linearity and directness. It’s rather ‘modern’ sounding playing. The Kreutzer is spick and span, decisive and taut, albeit there are one of two misplaced rubati. Overall it’s robust, masculine playing, fluid and trenchant in the central movement as well, where trills are very fast; occasional portamenti as well. Clean and unmannered though it is, occasionally it sounds rather impersonal. The final sonata finds Balsam playing more inwardly than Fuchs where we find a very slight air of calculation to his phrasing. Again though it’s admirably clean and clear-eyed playing characterised by instrumental finesse, a good sense of tempo contrast and fine ensemble. The results can however sound rather sleek. This is coupled with vintage American mono lending a honed and even strident keenness to the tone of Fuchs’ instrument.

Jonathan Woolf


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