> BEETHOVEN violin sonatas Szeryng []: Classical CD Reviews- May2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Violin Sonata No 2 in A major Op 2 No 2
Violin Sonata No 5 in F major Op 24 "Spring"
Violin Sonata No 9 in A major Op 47 "Kreutzer"
Henryk Szeryng, violin
Ingrid Haebler, piano
Recorded 1980
PHILIPS ELOQUENCE 469 152-2 [75’47]

Szeryng, born Henryk Serek in Warsaw in 1918, was one of Carl Flesch’s most outstanding talents. He studied with Flesch in Berlin from 1928-1932 but his career was slow to develop and Szeryng ended up in the relative musical backwater of Mexico. Here, gradually, he became a Mexico’s Cultural Ambassador of Goodwill (and on testy days was apparently given to insisting that he be addressed as Ambassador Szeryng). Rubinstein heard his fellow Pole and began a musical association that led to prestigious engagements for the violinist and eventual fame. He recorded the Spring and Kreutzer Sonatas with Rubinstein but the performances on this disc with the estimable Ingrid Haebler date from shortly before the violinist’s unexpectedly early death.

Szeryng was an exceptionally attractive and fluent player. He had a vibrato of controlled subtlety, a varied tonal palette and decorous musical impulses. In the core repertory he was invariably elegant and impressive – in Mozart especially so – but there is sometimes a strange "yes, but…" quality to his playing - a feeling that technical excellence is not always accompanied by commensurate interpretative depth. That said I enjoyed these performances. The Spring Sonata opens languidly with accents that are brisk but not trenchant and there is a scrupulous cleanliness to the playing that doesn’t preclude intimacy. The slow movement is again reflective, expressive with a good range of dynamics from the violinist whilst the rapport with Haebler is best exemplified in the finale with their seamlessly judged control of tempo. The Op 12 No 2 Sonata is charmingly done. There is an entirely apposite elegance to this early work which both players never overstrain to evoke. It was only with the Kreutzer that I had some reservations. Theirs is not a declamatory performance but neither is it too small-scaled. Haebler is perhaps guilty of a little staccato-legato playing in the opening movement. Szeryng is also a little affected here, with the result that the rhythm emerges as rather retarded. Nevertheless the violinist doesn’t overload the piano in the Concertante passages and is properly subservient in accompanying figures – the balance maintained is a good one. The end of the movement is measured with no sharply etched attacking playing. In the Andante con variazioni Haebler’s introduction is individual but slightly vitiated by over accenting – but I like the way that, better than many, she brings out the left hand melodies in the variations. As I do the sheer astringency of some of Szeryng’s playing. Recording time is good with quite reasonable notes. Recommended.

Jonathan Woolf

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