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Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Complete Violin Sonatas
see end of review for details
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]

I last encountered Daishin Kashimoto in his role as one of the Berlin Philharmonic’s concertmasters performing in Prague, an experience captured on DVD. A charismatic player, he has performed chamber music extensively, in addition to discharging his wide-spread orchestral obligations.
This box of the Beethoven Sonatas with Konstantin Lifschitz reveals their sensitive collaboration, in a set recorded in the Teldec Studios in Berlin over a series of sessions starting in July 2012 and ending in May 2013. They didn’t record the sonatas chronologically but for ease of convenience, one supposes, that’s how Warner Classics has presented them across the four CDs.
They certainly catch the vitality and verve of the Op.12 set, though from time to time I found the recorded acoustic just a touch over-resonant. A few alarm bells ring as early as the difficult-to-gauge Op.12 No.2 where the sense of piety and reverence in the slow movement is taken to something near excess. It’s a thought that recurs a touch more damagingly in the E flat sonata, Op.12 No.3. One appreciates the instruction to molt’espressione but the rhythmic impetus of the sonata as a whole is endangered at so devitalised a tempo. Set against this is the confident and probing musicianship they display in the finale of Op.23 and the generally successful way with the Spring – though again I happen to find the Adagio tends to slow things up, because when this duo sees the word ‘espressivo’ they tend to indulge it fully.
The Op.30 set reflects generally this rather dichotomous approach with rhythmic buoyancy in the outer movements and a more extensive indulgence of slow movements – notably so in the case of Op.20 No.1. The duo tends to avoid extremes of tempo relation, as such – fast movements are not taken very fast – which perhaps has the effect of enervating the slow movements still further. I felt their scrupulous and musical excavation of the variations second movement of the Kreutzer, whilst admirable violinistically and pianistically, lacked incision and variety of tempo. The sonata in G opens at another circumspect tempo, the slow movement remaining somewhat plainly spoken. The finale takes time to get on the wing but there’s an excess of rubato when it does and a sentimentalised indulgence that saps the music of genuine momentum. I have no idea what Lifschitz is doing at one point here, where he seems to imitate a cimbalom. Listen from 5:05 to 5:13 and again at 6:50 – weird pedalling and overtones.
I’ve concentrated on my major concerns in this set, somewhat at the expense of all the things that are admirable. I don’t want to suggest at all that the set is an exercise in enervation, as this is far from the case. Both players have outstanding techniques and that allows them to take things to excess on occasion, at least to my ears. It does however seem to me consistently inconsistent in approach and also in some ways in execution.
Jonathan Woolf

Previous review: Michael Cookson

Work details

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]