Beethoven Violin Sonatas 3,6, 7 & 8 reviewed by Gramophone

Author: Richard Bratby

There’s a special fascination to Beethoven’s three violin sonatas Op 30 – music that he seems to have written, in a matter of weeks, immediately after drafting the near-suicidal Heiligenstadt Testament. Critical attention has tended to focus on the central, C minor work of the triptych and this new recording – the last instalment in Lorenzo Gatto and Julian Libeer’s complete cycle – does a fine job of capturing both its nervous energy and its ambiguity: moving from a taut Adagio to a Scherzo that almost seems to skip with glee, and then on to a finale that sweeps in like a summer storm.

Previous instalments have given some idea of what to expect stylistically: neither player is dogmatic about historically informed style, Gatto deploying vibrato as and when it suits his expressive purpose. But the general spirit is energetic and playful (sometimes boisterously so), and recorded in bright, transparent sound. Earlier discs have used a Maene straight-strung concert grand, with its characteristic clarity; it is not clear whether that is the case throughout this programme, which was recorded in two separate venues.

But these are performances that appreciate that the violinist is accompanist as well as star, and the loveliest moments in Op 12 No 3 come when Libeer places his phrases limpidly over Gatto’s figuration. There’s warmth as well as brilliance in Op 30 No 1 (they phrase off the Adagiobeautifully), and a manic, scherzoid energy in the first movement of Op 30 No 2. Nervous tension, rather than profundity, is the keynote of this disc. You’ll enjoy it if you like your Beethoven restless and sometimes raw, though the decision to reverse the order of Op 30 Nos 1 and 2 defies either artistic or practical logic.

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