Beethoven: Complete Violin Sonatas | CD review

(Virgin Classics, three CDs)

Though other versions now in progress (especially the live recordings from the Wigmore Hall by Alina Ibragimova and Cédric Tiberghien) may well emerge soon to rival it, this is the finest new cycle of the Beethoven violin sonatas to appear on disc in years. As their previous trio recordings for Virgin with cellist Gautier Capuçon have demonstrated, Renaud Capuçon and Frank Braley are outstandingly musical players whose partnership is founded on a shared sense of expressive purpose. Nothing seems forced or contrived in these performances; Capuçon's tone is unfailingly warm, Braley's piano sound lacks any hard edges, and each of their phrases seems shaped with uncomplicated naturalness. The intelligence of their partnership emerges most clearly of all in the final sonata, the G major Op 96, whose to-and-fro conversational style suits these players ideally, but every work in this set has something special, and, for once, the Kreutzer sonata, Op 47, is treated less as a virtuoso showpiece than as genuine chamber music, a partnership of equals. The occasional misjudgments, such as a tendency to downplay the dynamic and dramatic contrasts in the three sonatas of the Op.12 set, in favour of more generalised emotional warmth, hardly matter at all when these musicians get so  much else gloriously right.


Andrew Clements

The GuardianTramp

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