Ludwig van Beethoven: The Sonatas for Piano and Violin

Media Review / Comparison Summary

2012-02-19 — Original posting (on Blogger)
2012-03-12 — Various updates
2014-05-24 — References to Rubinstein Album Collection (w/Szeryng), more artist links
2014-10-30 — Re-posting as is (WordPress)
2016-06-23 — Brushed up for better readability
2021-04-25 — Added recording with Lina Tur Bonet / Aurelia Vişovan

Table of Contents


In a series of blog entries, posted over the past 4 months, I have compared recordings of the Sonatas for Piano and Violin by Ludwig van Beethoven (1770 – 1827). All these are CDs in my music collection. I have been tackling one sonata per blog posting:

Purpose of this Posting

In this note, I would like to summarize the results of all of the above postings. This time, I’m focusing on the artists rather than on individual compositions. At the bottom of this posting you find a table that collects all of my ratings. Please keep in mind that these are just my personal ratings.

On top of that, the criteria in comparing performances of music that has been composed 200 years ago can’t be entirely objective. One should keep in mind that the composer’s notation only provides a rough skeleton defining how the music was intended to sound.

Most artists don’t (or can’t) resort to period instruments. However, even if we were truly able to reproduce the original sound (which we can only approximate now), we still can’t reproduce the human perception at the time of the composition, as our ears & brain are heavily biased by the music performed today!

For details on the actual CDs / recordings please select the appropriate blog postings from the list above; full CD details are typically given on the first sonata (sorted as shown above) for a given CD or CD set. The recordings are sorted by the last name of the artists (violinists first).

The Artists and their Recordings

Beethoven: Violin sonatas 3 & 5, Busch, Serkin, CD cover

Adolf Busch and Rudolf Serkin

1931 – 1941: Naxos 8.110954 (mono); Beethoven, Violin Sonatas (opp. 12/3, 24, 47), Historical Recordings 1931 – 1941

Average rating (10 tracks): 3.4

Beethoven: Violin sonatas, Capuçon, Braley, CD cover

Renaud Capuçon and Frank Braley

2009: Virgin Classics LV 7873 (stereo, 3 CD); Beethoven, Complete Violin Sonatas (opp. 12, 23, 24, 30, 47, 96)

Average Rating (47 tracks): 4.0

Beethoven: Violin sonatas, Faust, Melnikov, CD cover

Isabelle Faust and Alexander Melnikov

2006 / 2008: Harmonia mundi HMC 902025.27 (stereo, 3 CD + 1 CD/DVD); Beethoven, Complete Violin Sonatas (opp. 12, 23, 24, 30, 47, 96)

Average rating (33 tracks): 5.0

Beethoven: Violin sonatas, Grumiaux, Haskil, CD cover

Arthur Grumiaux and Clara Haskil

1956 / 1957: Brilliant Classics 93329 (mono, 3 CD); Beethoven, Complete Violin Sonatas (opp. 12, 23, 24, 30, 47, 96)

Average rating (33 tracks): 2.8


Gidon Kremer and Martha Argerich

  • 1985: DG 415 138-2 (stereo); Beethoven, Violin Sonatas Nos. 1 – 3 (op.12)
  • 1987: DG 419 787-2 (stereo); Beethoven, Violin Sonatas Nos. 4 & 5 (opp. 23, 24)
  • 1994: DG 445 652-2 (stereo), Beethoven, Violin Sonatas Nos. 6 – 8 (op.30)
  • 1995: DG 447 054-2 (stereo); Beethoven, Violin Sonatas Nos. 9 & 10 (opp.47, 96)

Average rating (33 tracks): 4.5

Beethoven: Violin sonatas vol.1, Menuhin, Kempff, CD cover
Beethoven: Violin sonatas vol.2, Menuhin, Kempff, CD cover

Yehudi Menuhin and Wilhelm Kempff

  • 1970: DGG 459 433-2 (stereo, 2 CD); Beethoven, Complete Violin Sonatas, Vol.I: Sonatas opp.12, 23, 24; Rondo in G, WoO 41; 12 Variations on “Se vuol ballare” from “Le nozze di Figaro”, WoO 40
  • 1970: DGG 459 436-2 (stereo, 2 CD); Beethoven, Complete Violin Sonatas, Vol.II: Sonatas opp.30, 47, 96

Average rating (33 tracks): 1.9

Beethoven: Violin sonatas 3 & 9, Mullova, Bezuidenhout, CD cover

Viktoria Mullova and Kristian Bezuidenhout

2009: ONYX 4050 (stereo); Beethoven, Violin Sonata Nr.3 op.12/3, Violin Sonata Nr.9 op.47 “Kreutzer”

Average rating (6 tracks): 5.0

Beethoven: Violin sonatas, Oistrakh, Oborin, CD cover

David Oistrakh and Lev Oborin

1962: Philips 468 406-2 (stereo, 4 CD); Beethoven, Complete Violin Sonatas (opp. 12, 23, 24, 30, 47, 96)

Average rating (33 tracks): 2.5

Beethoven / Franck: Violin sonatas, Perlman, Argerich, CD, cover

Itzhak Perlman and Martha Argerich

1998: EMI Classics 7243 5 56815 2 2; Beethoven, Violin Sonata op.47 — Franck, Violin Sonata in A major (CD, recorded live)

Average rating (3 tracks): 3.7

Beethoven: Violin sonatas, Perlman, Ashkenazy, CD cover

Itzhak Perlman and Vladimir Ashkenazy

1973 – 1975: Decca 421 453-2 (stereo, 4 CD); Beethoven, Complete Violin Sonatas (opp. 12, 23, 24, 30, 47, 96)

Average rating (33 tracks): 3.2

Beethoven: Violin sonatas 5, 8, 9, Szeryng, Rubinstein, CD cover
Rubinstein, The Complete Album Collection (142 CDs), cover, CD # 70
Rubinstein, The Complete Album Collection (142 CDs), cover, CD # 80

Henryk Szeryng and Arthur Rubinstein

  • 1958 / 1961: RCA Victor / BMG 09026 63040-2 (stereo); Beethoven, Violin Sonatas opp.24, 30/3, 47
  • 1958: RCA Victor / BMG (stereo); Beethoven, Violin Sonatas opp.24, 47
  • 1961: RCA Victor / BMG (stereo); Beethoven, Violin Sonata op.30/3 — Brahms: Violin Sonata op.78

Average rating (10 tracks): 2.3

Beethoven: Violin sonatas 9, 10 — Tur Bonet, Vişovan (CD cover)

Lina Tur Bonet and Aurelia Vişovan

2020: Passacaille PAS 1086 (CD, stereo); Beethoven, Violin Sonatas op. 47, op.96

Average rating (7 tracks): 5.0


Result Summary

In the table below I’m summarizing the results of my iTunes ratings (*, **, …, *****). Keep in mind that these ratings are subjective, though I have tried my best to avoid underrating specific recordings, e.g.,

  • by listening to slower recordings first (as after a fast recording, a slow interpretation may often sound “clumsy”)
  • later in the comparison, I sometimes would also listen to those recordings first which I anticipate to be worse than others — not in order to confirm a prejudice, but because after a good one, a bad recording may sound even worse;
  • by avoiding directly confronting “classic” recordings with newer, “historically informed” performances, or recordings with period instruments;

Note also that not all of the table below can be viewed as direct comparison, as for some artists I only had 1 – 3 sonatas to compare, and there may not be any overlap between recordings of such artists.

Beethoven, Violin Sonatas, ratings, comparison table / summary
Beethoven, Violin Sonatas, ratings, comparison table / summary

The fact that some artists only received top five-star ratings is partly due to the limitations in the iTunes rating options, with obvious limitations in the differentiation.

Ratings, Explained

In general, I used the rating levels as follows:

  • ***** = top rating, my favorite recording(s)
  • **** = excellent recording
  • *** = good recording, often a typical “classic” recording
  • ** = recordings with features / attributes that I dislike, or with “moderate deficiencies”
  • * = recordings where I have major objections, or recordings that are obviously against the composer’s (perceived) intent, etc.

Despite the lack of rating differentiation, the above summary should (at least for artists represented by a complete collection of all sonatas) be relatively safe against occasional mis-ratings due to confrontation with the “wrong” contenders, due to variations in my own “receptivity” etc., thanks to the sheer number of the ratings which should average out occasional, minor errors. That said, there is of course no guarantee that anyone will agree with the above results…

Addendum: Scores

If you are not an active pianist or violinist, you might want to follow this music using a pocket score — these typically come in two volumes:

While musicians, of course, prefer a full size score edition, such as Henle’s, also in two volumes:

AboutImpressum, LegalSite Policy | TestimonialsAcknowledgementsBlog Timeline
Typography, ConventionsWordPress Setup | Resources, ToolsTech/Methods/Pics/Photography

Feel free to comment — feedback is welcome!