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Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
The Complete Violin Sonatas Vol.1
Violin Sonata in D, Op.12 No.1 (1797-8) [20:48]
Violin Sonata in C minor, Op.30 No.2 (1801-2) [25:30]
Violin Sonata in G, Op.96 (1812) [29:17]
Peter Cropper (violin); Martin Roscoe (piano)
rec. Potton Hall, Suffolk, 4-6 April, 5 December 2006. DDD
ASV GOLD GLD 4023 [75:38]

Ex-Lindsay leader Peter Cropper begins his traversal of the complete Beethoven violin sonatas with a nice mixed recital of early, middle and late – in fact, last. To say he enters a crowded field would be an understatement, and it’s fair to say that amongst the many good things here, there are a number of frustrations.
The best performance here is the first, with things going a bit downhill from there. Cropper has been criticised for occasional roughness of tone, which is evident in places here, but seems to matter least in the earlier, fierier works. I fact, it could be judged a virtue in Op.12, where the younger composer is, as usual, upsetting polite convention and virtually re-inventing the form. All the hallmarks of Beethoven’s early style are here, abrupt changes of key, dramatic shifts in contrast and wide dynamic ranges for both instruments. Cropper and Roscoe revel in this; the latter’s beautifully graded partnering (not accompanying) being a real pleasure throughout. Tempos are well judged and the characteristic accents of the rondo finale make for an exciting listening experience, though I did notice the odd uneven run in the violin line.
Op.30 comes off pretty well also, with especially vivid outer movements, even if the odd big chord sometimes grated a bit, at least to my ears. The lovely slow movement, a real oasis amid the turbulence, is nicely phrased, with Roscoe again particularly impressive.
I guess I have been spoilt in the great final G major sonata, tending to stick by the memorable partnerships of Kremer/Argerich and Perlman/Ashkenazy, both of whom bring a greater sense of scale, weight and authority to this piece. The longer, more lyrical phrases just don’t convince as much in Cropper’s hands, and even the opening trill, such an original touch, is a shade uneven. What liner note writer Misha Donat calls ‘the serene and expansive’ qualities in this glorious work are underplayed for me, though of course there are good moments. The theme-and-variation finale is well characterised generally, but even here Kremer and Argerich are simply electrifying. It may be the very close, rather dry recording that doesn’t help Cropper’s cause, with the many sniffs and tonal edginess all too well caught.
Still, it’s a well-filled disc and if you are a fan of the artists don’t let me put you off. Roscoe is on superb form and Cropper is a truly musical player. It was perhaps beyond them to be equally inspired in all three works and there is some phenomenal competition, but you may be more convinced than me.
Tony Haywood


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