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Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
The Ten Violin Sonatas
CD 1
Sonata No. 1 in D Major, Op. 12, No. 1 (1797-98) [20:48]
Sonata No. 3 in E-flat Major, Op. 12, No. 3 (1797-98) [18:38]
Sonata No. 9 in A Major, Op. 47 ‘Kreutzer’ (1803) [37:49]
CD 2
Sonata No. 2 in A Major, Op. 12, No. 2 (1797-98) [16:53]
Sonata No. 5 in F Major, Op. 24, ‘Spring’ (1801) [23:05]
Sonata No. 6 in A Major, Op. 30, No. 1 (1803) [22:22]
Sonata No. 8 in G Major, Op. 30, No. 3 (1803) [17:25]
CD 3
Sonata No. 4 in A Minor, Op. 23, (1801) [21:42]
Sonata No. 7 in C Minor, Op. 30, No. 2 (1803) [24:45]
Sonata No. 10 in G Major, Op. 96 (1812) [27:00]
Corey Cerovsek (violin)
Paavali Jumppanen (piano)
rec. 14-25 June, 27-31 August 2006, Salle de Musique, La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland. DDD
CLAVES CD 50-2610/12 [3 CDs: 77:26 + 79:59 + 73:39]  

 

 

Claves is a Swiss independent record company that was founded by Marguerite Dütschler-Huber and her family and has been operating for four decades. The label have released over four hundred and fifty recordings, although, they don’t often come my way. I note that in 2003 Claves became owned by the Clara Haskil Foundation out of Vevey, Switzerland. The Foundation has promised to continue the legacy of making recordings of the highest standards, a claim that on the evidence of this recital is being eminently sustained both artistically and technically. With regard to the layout of the programme it seems that it has been selected to fit across the three discs rather than in chronological order of composition.

Claves have imaginatively packaged the set using an attractive gatefold design constructed in hard card, containing a heavy 96-page booklet with an English text and fold-out paper pouches for the discs. Having handled the set my view is that the design is cumbersome, highly impractical and doesn’t really seem durable enough to withstand too much exertion. In addition there are annoying track numbering errors in the booklet on the second and third discs. Thankfully a check that I made against an alternative set of Beethoven violin sonatas proved that the identity of each sonata was actually as listed in the booklet.

To record Beethoven’s ten violin sonatas must be a pinnacle in the career of any performer and Canadian-born violinist Cerovsek and Finnish pianist Jumppanen have clearly risen to the considerable challenges that these works provide. It is clear that both artists are focused on extracting every possible ounce of expression from each single bar. Cerovsek plays the ‘Millanolo’ Stradivarius of 1728 that has a fascinating history chronicled in the booklet. It is an instrument that has, at various times, been in the ownership of soloists: Jean-Baptiste Viotti; Domenico Dragonetti; Teresa and Maria Milanollo; Christian Ferras and Pierre Amoyal.

The first disc opens with the Sonata No. 1 in D Major. Cerovsek and Jumppanen are vivacious in the generous opening movement Allegro con brio and reflective in the central movement Andante. In the closing movement Rondo the partners provide playing that is appealing and good-humoured.

In the substantial opening Allegro con spirito of the Sonata No. 3 in E-flat Major there is purposeful playing throughout and the tumultuous character of the movement is well conveyed. I found them expressive in the Andante giving a sprightly reading of the Rondo that ends the score.
 
The Sonata No. 9 in A Major known as the ‘Kreutzer’ is one of the most popular scores in the chamber music repertoire and lasts over thirty-seven minutes in this performance. The substantial opening movement is robust in the Adagio sostenuto providing high energy in the Presto section. The interpretation of the lengthy central Andante is sedate and sober and I experienced intense passion and energy from the players in the highly strung and tempestuous closing Presto.

The opening score on the second disc is the Sonata No. 2 in A Major. Cerovsek and Jumppanen provide a cantering and youthful character to the opening Allegro vivace with a controlled and serious reading of the Andante. The partners play with convincing arrogance in the introspective closing movement Allegro piacevole.               

Cast in four movements the Sonata No. 5 in F Major has been given the title ‘Spring’ and has become one of the most admired of Beethoven’s chamber works. In the extended opening movement Allegro  there is bright, sunny and cheerful playing and in the aria-like Adagio molto espressivo the duo are warm and affectionate. I loved the exuberant performance with the staccato rhythms of the Scherzo and in the final movement Rondo they provide zestful enthusiasm, although I would have preferred a brisker tempo.

Cerovsek and Jumppanen in the Sonata No. 6 in A Major give a moody and unsettled character to the opening Allegro. In the attractive and lyrical Adagio they are slightly unconvincing seeming unsure about their pacing although the final movement Rondo is fresh and alive.

The players in the Sonata No. 8 in G Major are keen and resolute in the action-packed opening Allegro assai. Dignity and high expression are to the fore in the central movement and in the closing movement Allegro vivace the reading is brisk, even impish.       

The third and final disc opens with the Sonata No. 4 in A Minor given in its first movement a skittish and cheery interpretation. I was impressed with the composure and warm intimacy of the reading in the extended central Andante relieved be a brief episode of brisk energy. The players also impress in the Allegro molto, Finale with a scampering and excitable quality.

The opening Allegro moderato of the four movement Sonata No. 7 in C Minor is performed by Cerovsek and Jumppanen with aggressive and highly industrious playing. By contrast the extended Adagio cantabile is sensitively performed like a gentle song. The players make a fine impression with their alert and eager interpretation of the Scherzo. Their performance of the Finale, Allegro - Presto is dramatic and vigorous.

The final work is the four movement Sonata No. 10 in G Major. The playing in the lengthy opening movement Allegro moderato is graceful and even-tempered with a composed and tender reading of the Adagio. In the Scherzo I was impressed with the duo’s keen and vibrant interpretation. Also worthy of attention is their excitable and rollicking playing in the finale.

Not surprisingly there is fierce competition in the catalogues for recordings of the complete Beethoven violin sonatas. In spite of my enjoyment from these performances they would not displace any of my long-time favourites. I remain an admirer of the spirited and robust performances from Pinchas Zukerman and Daniel Barenboim. I have their recordings, made 1971-73 at Zehlendorf, Berlin and Abbey Road Studios, London, as part of a nine disc box set from EMI Classics 5 74447 2. I am also fond of the exciting and the spontaneous feel to the readings from Gidon Kremer and Martha Argerich on Deutsche Grammophon 447 058-2 and also the impeccable unity and directness of the performances from Itzhak Perlman and Vladimir Ashkenazy on Decca 421 453-2. I hear consistently favourable reports of the sets from Wolfgang Schneiderhan and Carl Seemann on Deutsche Grammophon Trio 477 550-2; Henryk Szeryng and Ingrid Haebler on Philips Duo 446 521-2 (vol. 1) and 446 524-2 (vol. 2) and also from Augustin Dumay and Maria João Pires on Deutsche Grammophon 471 495-2.

Cerovsek and Jumppanen turn in consistently satisfying performances marked by their selfless dedication. It is a shame that I did not have this excellent set in good time for a pre-Christmas review as it would have made a fine gift for any lover of chamber music.

Michael Cookson

 


 



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