Ludwig van Beethoven
Sonata for Piano and Violin No.6 in A major, op.30/1

Media Review / Comparison


2011-12-26 — Original posting (on Blogger)
2013-07-15 — New standard layout applied
2014-10-31 — Re-posting as is (WordPress)
2016-06-23 — Brushed up for better readability


Outline


Introduction

This is another note on the recordings of Beethoven’s sonatas for piano & violin in my music collection, about the sonata in A major, op.30/1 — references to the CDs are given at the bottom of the respective section, or in one of the related postings, or see the summary on the postings covering Beethoven’s Sonatas for Piano & Violin.

Below you find my comments on the recordings that I have for the Sonata for Piano and Violin No.6 in A major op.30/1 by Ludwig van Beethoven (1770 – 1827). Here’s a short list of the recordings in this comparison, in alphabetic order:


The Movements

The movements in this sonata are

  1. Allegro (3/4)
  2. Adagio molto espressivo (2/4)
  3. Allegretto con Variazioni: Thema, Var. I – IV (alla breve, 2/2) — Var. V (minore, alla breve, 2/2) —
    Var. VI: Allegro, ma non tanto (maggiore, 6/8)

The (measured) metronome numbers are approximate values only.


Comments on the Interpretations

Yehudi Menuhin, Wilhelm Kempff (1970)

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

Beethoven, The Complete Violin Sonatas, Vol.II: Sonatas opp.30, 47, 96

Yehudi MenuhinWilhelm Kempff

DG 459 436-2 (stereo, 2 CD); ℗ 1970

Beethoven: Violin sonatas vol. II, Menuhin, Kempff, CD, UPC-A barcode
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Yehudi Menuhin and Wilhelm Kempff (1970) — This is the second part of their recording of all works for piano and violin by Beethoven, done in 1970, as part of the Beethoven Edition by DG, in celebration of Beethoven’s 200th birthday. For general comments see op.12/1.

Comments on the Performance

  1. 7’49”; 1/4 = 130
    Not much expression; technically just about OK
  2. 8’54”; 1/8 = 50
    Played in 4/8 rather than 2/4 — and even though it’s played in 1/8, it’s still extremely slow, the melody totally overstretched and static; the expression should be on the melody, not in the accompaniment!
  3. 9’04”; 1/2 = 76 (Theme)
    Too slow, feels like an Andante. The best part is variation 1.
Recommendation:No.
Rating:2.0 (2 / 2 / 2)

David Oistrakh, Lev Oborin (1962)

Beethoven: Violin sonatas, Oistrakh, Oborin, CD cover

Beethoven: The Sonatas for Piano and Violin (opp. 12, 23, 24, 30, 47, 96)

David Oistrakh, Lev Oborin

Philips 468 406-2 (stereo, 4 CD); ℗ 2001

Beethoven: Violin sonatas, Oistrakh, Oborin, CD, UPC-A barcode
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David Oistrakh and Lev Oborin (1962) — for general comments see op.12/1

Comments on the Performance

  1. 6’12” (exposition not repeated); 1/4 = 120
    Feels like an Andante — too slow, static.
  2. 7’40”; 1/8 = 64
    Played in 2/4, but still very slow (the slow tempo is emphasized by the quarter beat); the piano is not very poetic.
  3. 8’14”; 1/2 = 78 (Theme)
    Too slow, just like Menuhin (though technically better in the violin): mostly feels like an Andante, and where one hears allegretto, it’s because they play 4/4 rather than alla breve. Variation 6 is maybe allegretto, but not allegro.
Recommendation:No.
Rating:2.7 (3 / 3 / 2)

Arthur Grumiaux, Clara Haskil (1957)

Beethoven: Violin sonatas, Grumiaux, Haskil, CD cover

Beethoven: Violin Sonatas, Complete (opp. 12, 23, 24, 30, 47, 96)

Arthur Grumiaux, Clara Haskil

Brilliant Classics 93329 (mono, 3 CD); licensed from Decca

VlSon_Grumiauz_Haskil
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Arthur Grumiaux and Clara Haskil (1957) — for general comments see op.12/1

Comments on the Performance

  1. 5’29” (exposition not repeated); 1/4 = 138
    Expression? Rushed details / figurations.
  2. 7’01”; 1/8 = 66
    This is now played as 2/4 (unlike Menuhin and Perlman), we are getting closer to a melody — but why on earth does the violin sometimes sound like a chainsaw (sorry about that, could not resist!). Sure, I could turn down the volume — but then it becomes a sonata for violin solo! The “old recording” can’t serve as excuse — Busch and Serkin have proven otherwise in their much older recording (see op.12/3 and op.24)!
  3. 7’41”; 1/2 = 88 (Theme)
    Finally a movement where Clara Haskil can show her qualities — well done! Especially good are variations 1 and 3.
Recommendation:Not really, except for the last movement, which is OK.
Rating:3 (3 / 2 / 4)

Itzhak Perlman, Vladimir Ashkenazy (1975)

Beethoven: Violin sonatas, Perlman, Ashkenazy, CD cover

Beethoven: The Violin Sonatas, Complete (opp. 12, 23, 24, 30, 47, 96)

Itzhak Perlman, Vladimir Ashkenazy

Decca 421 453-2 (stereo, 4 CD); ℗ 1974 / © 1988

Beethoven: Violin sonatas, Perlman, Ashkenazy, UPC-A barcode
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Itzhak Perlman and Vladimir Ashkenazy (1975) — for general comments see op.12/1

Comments on the Performance

  1. 7’55”; 1/4 = 126
    The tempo is better than with Oistrakh — a slow Allegro, maybe, expressive, close to sumptuous, but also calm, serene sections.
  2. 8’22”; 1/8 = 54
    Played as 4/8, not 2/4 and very slow, almost as slow as Menuhin — though the piano has more expression. Still, the melody is totally overstretched and hardly recognizable as such.
  3. 8’07”; 1/2 = 82 (Theme)
    Emotionally relatively flat; the tempo is better (than with Menuhin and Oistrakh), but the performance is often fairly mechanical.
Recommendation:Just OK
Rating:3.3 (4 / 3 / 3)

Renaud Capuçon, Frank Braley (2009)

VlSon_Capuçon_Braley

Beethoven: Complete Sonatas for Violin & Piano (opp. 12, 23, 24, 30, 47, 96)

Renaud Capuçon, Frank Braley

Virgin Classics LV 7873 (stereo, 3 CD); ℗ / © 2010

Beethoven: Violin sonatas, Capuçon, Braley, EAN-13 barcode
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Renaud Capuçon and Frank Braley (2009) — for general comments see op.12/1

Comments on the Performance

  1. 7’47”; 1/4 = 130
    Less sumptuous than Perlman, nicely elaborated; in the violin maybe technically not always 100% controlled.
  2. 6’28”; 1/8 = 72
    Good tempo, very expressive and melodic, but the vibrato is a bit too strong, especially on long notes.
  3. 7’48”; 1/2 = 86 (Theme)
    A good interpretation, with minor deficiencies, e.g.;: in the last variation, some of the 3/8 groups in the pianist’s left hand are oddly irregular.
Recommendation:OK
Rating:3.9 (4 / 4 / 3.6)

Gidon Kremer, Martha Argerich (1994)

Beethoven: Violin sonatas vol.3, Kremer, Argerich, CD cover

Beethoven: Violin Sonatas Nos. 6 – 8 (op. 30)

Gidon KremerMartha Argerich

DG 445 652-2 (stereo); ℗ / © 1994

VlSon_Kremer_Argerich_6_7_8
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Gidon Kremer and Martha Argerich (1994) — the third CD in their complete recording of the Beethoven violin sonatas was done in 1994, seven years after the preceding volume, now at the age of 47 and 53, respectively. For general information on the first CD see op.12/1, and for general remarks on the second CD see op.23.

Comments on the Performance

  1. 7’49”; 1/4 = 132
    Expressive, nice agogics also within phrases, multi-layered, nicely elaborated; the range of expressions is much wider than with any of the interpretations above!
  2. 6’43”; 1/8 = 68
    Expressive, dynamic, but somewhat overcharged / overloaded with emotion (see below!).
  3. 7’40”; 1/2 = 88 (Theme)
    A lively, vivid interpretation, showing off Martha Argerich’s constant presence / alertness. Interesting: Kremer’s ultra-short arpeggi in variation 4 — almost as short as pizzicati!
Recommendation:Yes
Rating:4.7 (5 / 4 / 5)

Isabelle Faust, Alexander Melnikov (2008)

Beethoven: Violin sonatas, Faust, Melnikov, CD cover

Beethoven: Complete Sonatas for Piano & Violin (opp. 12, 23, 24, 30, 47, 96)

Isabelle Faust, Alexander Melnikov

Harmonia mundi HMC 902025.27 (stereo, 3 CD + 1 CD/DVD); ℗ 2009

Beethoven: Violin sonatas, Faust, Melnikov, UPC-A barcode
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Isabelle Faust and Alexander Melnikov (2008) — for general comments see op.12/1

Comments on the Performance

  1. 6’57”; 1/4 = 156
    An Allegro, at last, not a serene Allegretto: substantially faster than the others, yet under control, very lively agogics, perfectly coordinated — amazing how Isabelle Faust can take back the volume, down to a mere whispering — and still she remains perfectly audible, the tone of course very clear, and without vibrato in such moments; another piece where one constantly discovers new aspects and details!
  2. 6’47”; 1/8 = 72
    Less is more — welcome to a different world! There is no need to load this movement with rubato and vibrato — the espressivo comes from the melody, and the apparently “simple” recipe for this movement is to let the melody sing: it’s such a beautiful song — beautiful, yet simple (almost a folk song), and it has all the emotion and expression in it: longing, loneliness, love, beauty; trying to emphasize this with vibrato etc. kills the melody and the expression! (Reminds me of the story where Joseph Joachim once criticized a violinist for his vibrato, stating that this is merely a substitute for emotions!). The minimal amount of vibrato and the simplicity in Isabelle Faust’s playing beat all other interpretations — and she is joined by Alexander Melnikov: he can make the piano sing — a perfect match for the violin in this movement!
  3. 7’55”; 1/2 = 88 (Theme)
    Hard to beat: a “monolithic” interpretation throughout all variations, extremely well tuned / coordinated, with lively agogics, transparent. Interesting in variation 4: here, the first arpeggi are very light, “airy”, subsequent sets of arpeggi are of growing strength and intensity, up to the f / ff towards the end of that section.
Recommendation:YES!
Rating:5.0 (5 / 5 / 5)

Addendum

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:



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