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.
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
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.