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Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Violin Sonata No. 5 in F Major, Op. 24, Spring [21:54]
Violin Sonata No. 9 in A Major, Op. 47 Kreutzer [34:10]
Susanne Lautenbacher (violin)
Reinhold Lampart (piano)
rec. mid-1950s

Years ago I had a Turnabout LP of Vivaldi's The Four Seasons performed by Susanne Lautenbacher (b. 1932) with the Wurttemberg Chamber Orchestra under Jorg Faerber. As I recall, at the time I found Lautenbacher's sound very one-dimensional and even bland. I no longer have that LP to reevaluate my opinion, so I approached this release from Forgotten Records with some misgivings. There's an interesting note included with this Beethoven issue. Apparently the French edition of the recording derives from a Club Mondial du Disque (CMD 370) LP in which Lautenbacher is named Thérèse Herzog. In Germany, the recordings appeared on an Orpheus LP (6424), with the violinist identified as Renate Lautenbacher. Both LPs are utilized as source material for this release. The explanation in the added note is that different names were given for contractual reasons, whatever that means. Lautenbacher's discography is substantial, with the lions share consisting of Baroque music. She's also recorded the Beethoven and Brahms Violin Concertos.

Beethoven's Spring and Kreutzer Sonatas are a favourite pairing, with the catalogue boasting several distinguished versions, including those by Szeryng, Perlman, Zukerman and Milstein. I have to say, from the outset, that I do have reservations about Lautenbacher's efforts, and it would have been interesting comparing them with a later remake she made with pianist Rolf Reinhardt.

Of the two sonatas, Lautenbacher's Spring is preferable. The performance conveys the joy, anticipation and hope that the season brings. The opening movement is suffused with a relaxed lyricism, with the slow movement soused with nostalgic tenderness. The brief offbeat Scherzo is witty and playful, with much being made of the syncopations. The Rondo is spirited and imparts an air of optimism.

If you like your Kreutzer Sonata opening movement stormy and with plenty of tension, you need to look elsewhere, I'm afraid it all seems too manicured and calculated for my taste. Perlman and Askkenazy get it just right. The second movement does fare better, with the variations nicely characterized.  The finale is missing a bit of oomph and excitement.

It has to be said that Lautenbacher doesn’t command a very wide colouristic range. She possesses a woefully slow vibrato which is unvaried, rendering her tone, for the most part, monochrome.

Forgotten Records’ remasterings are exemplary, and the recordings emerge with renewed freshness and life yet, as I said, I have my reservations about the performances. There are no notes included, but pointers to relevant websites are included.

Stephen Greenbank 


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