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Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Complete Violin Sonatas
Sonata No. 1 in D Major, Op. 12/1 (1797/98) [22:25]
Sonata No. 2 in A Major, Op. 12/2 (1797/98) [19:42]
Sonata No. 3 in E-flat Major, Op. 12/3 (1797/98) [21:47]
Sonata No. 4 in A Minor, Op. 23, (1801) [23:25]
Sonata No. 5 in F Major, Op. 24, Spring (1801) [25:22]
Sonata No. 6 in A Major, Op. 30/1 (1803) [26:30]
Sonata No. 7 in C Minor, Op. 30/2 (1803) [27:35]
Sonata No. 8 in G Major, Op. 30/3 (1803) [19:14]
Sonata No. 9 in A Major, Op. 47 Kreutzer (1803) [42:11]
Sonata No. 10 in G Major, Op. 96 (1812) [31:35]
Daishin Kashimoto (violin)
Konstantin Lifschitz (piano)
rec. 14/17 July 2012 (Op. 12/1, Op. 30/1-3), Gabriel Recording Studio, Stalden, Switzerland; 27/31 December 2012 (Op. 12/2, Op. 23, Op. 47, Op. 96), 13/15 May 2013 (Op. 12/3, Op. 24), Teldex Studio, Berlin, Germany
WARNER CLASSICS 2564 634929 [4 CDs: 63:54 + 48:47 + 73:19 + 73:46]

In the last couple of years I have seen the Berlin Philharmonic in concert half a dozen times with Daishin Kashimoto as first concertmaster. As a chamber musician I know Kashimoto far less. For the present set he is partnered by pianist Konstantin Lifschitz his established accompanist who has played in concert with a number of the world’s most prestigious orchestras.
 
To record Beethoven’s set of ten Violin Sonatas must be a pinnacle in the career of any chamber performer. Kashimoto, a London-born Japanese national and Lifschitz a native of Kharkov in former Soviet Union (now the Ukraine) have clearly risen to the considerable challenges that these works provide. They are talented artists and what we hear certainly feels as if the music of Beethoven is running through their veins. Their unaffected playing is no stranger to sensitivity coupled with a judicious degree of boldness. It’s clear that the duo is sharply focussed on blending accuracy and expression to the character of the music.
 
Dedicated to his tutor Antonio Salieri the Op. 12 set of three violin sonatas published in 1799 is a product of Beethoven’s late twenties. I especially enjoyed the three movement Sonata No. 2 with the exuberant playing in the opening Allegro vivace conveying a satisfyingly optimistic disposition. Serious and precise, the Andante, più tosto allegretto is given an intensely contemplative and almost devotional quality. To conclude, the captivating minuet-like Finale: Allegro piacevole is performed with the most appealing expression and just exudes flawless sophistication.
 
Written about the time that Beethoven was beginning to experience disturbing signs of deafness, comes the radiant and spirited four movement Sonata No. 5 known as the ‘Spring’. In the assured hands of Kashimoto and Lifschitz the opening Allegro verges on the witty and glows quite radiantly. With such feather-like playing the delicate Adagio molto espressivo comes close to the temperament of a lullaby. I love the mischievous feel the duo give to the Scherzo and the Rondo: Finale conveys a degree of tension and agitation although I really wanted greater intensity.

Composed in 1803 approximately between the Second and Third Symphonies is the most famous of all the sonatas: the immense and majestic Sonata No. 9, Op. 47 known as the ‘Kreutzer’. The performance here is a joy from the first to last. Playing of flexibility and unyielding energy marks the mighty opening Adagio sostenuto. Here the poetic passages are played with tenderness and by contrast the Presto section just snarls with impetuosity. There is refinement to the duo’s interpretation of the substantial Andante con variazioni but it remains affectionate and gracious too. I was struck by the players’ unwavering energy bestowed on the Presto: Finale. It feels daringly unruly.
 
The lovely four movement Sonata No. 10, Op. 96 was written in 1812, the year that saw the completion of the Seventh and Eighth Symphonies. A personal favourite, this warm and amicable scaore would be far better known had it been allocated a name by its publisher. With only occasional interruptions to its intimacy the Allegro moderato makes for an affectionate and calming opening. Kashimoto and Lifschitz give an enchanting tempered quality to the Adagio espressivo suggesting a musical love-letter. Marked by its extreme brevity, the bucolic Scherzo feels like a fleet-footed folk-dance. The high-spirited Finale marked Poco allegretto is full of contrasting ideas and high optimism. With a final burst the concluding section is rapidly played by the duo with remarkable vitality yet always remaining in control.
 
Competition in the catalogues for recordings of the complete Beethoven Violin Sonatas is extremely fierce. This set can stand alongside any of the more established recordings in my collection. The Virgin Classics release from Renaud Capuçon and Frank Braley is the one I play most often. Recorded in 2009 at La Chaux de Fonds, Switzerland Capuçon and Braley play compellingly with an elevated level of artistry. I have also long admired the spirited and robust performances that Pinchas Zukerman and Daniel Barenboim provide in their 1971/73 recording made in Berlin and London on EMI Classics. In addition I remain fond of the exciting and spontaneous readings of Gidon Kremer and Martha Argerich. These were released in 1995 on Deutsche Grammophon. For their impeccable unity and directness there are excellent performances to be heard from Itzhak Perlman and Vladimir Ashkenazy released in 1998 on Decca. A lesser known set that deserves praise is from Corey Cerovsek and Paavali Jumppanen. These consistently satisfying performances are marked by a selfless dedication and were recorded in 2006 at La Chaux de Fonds, Switzerland on Claves. I also hear favourable reports of the recordings from Wolfgang Schneiderhan and Carl Seemann on Deutsche Grammophon; Henryk Szeryng and Ingrid Haebler on Philips Duo and also Augustin Dumay and Maria João Pires on Deutsche Grammophon.
 
In the overall sound-picture on this Warner Classics disc Kashimoto feels slightly recessed behind Lifschitz’s piano. The ear soon becomes accustomed to this and it doesn’t present too much of a problem. Recorded across two studio locations in Stalden, Switzerland and Berlin the cool sound is remarkably clear. This is a decidedly impressive set and a credit to the players’ artistry. They evince a remarkable level of engagement with this wonderful music.
 
Michael Cookson
 




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