Ludwig van Beethoven
Sonata for Piano and Violin No.10 in G major, op.96, “The Cockcrow”

Media Review / Comparison


2012-02-19 — Original posting (on Blogger)
2013-03-02 — Updates
2013-07-15 — New standard layout applied
2014-10-31 — Re-posting as is (WordPress)
2015-03-08 — Re-added audio example
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 G major, op.96, “The Cockcrow” — 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.10 in G major, op.96, “The Cockcrow”, by  Ludwig van Beethoven (1770 – 1827). The surname is used in anglo-saxon countries only — it is definitely not Beethoven’s. Here’s a short list of the recordings in this comparison, in alphabetic order:


The Movements

The movements in this sonata are

  1. Allegro moderato (3/4)
  2. Adagio moderato (2/4)
  3. Scherzo: Allegro (3/4) — Trio (3/4)
  4. Poco Allegretto (2/4) — Adagio espressivo (6/8) — Tempo I (2/4) — Allegro

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) — for general comments see op.30/1

Comments on the Performance

  1. 11’02”; 1/4 = 112
    Violin: articulation not very good; the sf are too soft, almost not done. Then exposition starts slower — this enforces a slowdown when returning to the beginning for the repetition, which to me wasn’t done in the best possible way. The pedaling in the Coda is rudimentary, does not follow Beethoven’s notation.
  2. 6’20”; 1/4 = 52
    Good tempo; in the espressivo, the violin is rather superficial, often coarse. One of the traps in this movement are those crescendi to a lead tone which is a fourth above the preceding note: on the violin, this higher note naturally sounds much louder — so, even if there is a crescendo, that lead tone must be taken back: Menuhin falls into this trap just about every time.
  3. 1’54”; 1/4 = 198 — 198 (Trio)
    Coarse, rough — a Scherzo??
  4. 9’27”; 1/4 = 84 (theme)
    Somewhat superficial (dolce taken as semplice?); Menuhin holds the fermatas in the Adagio part (during the piano Cadenza) — formally correct, though sounds a bit odd towards the end.
Recommendation:No
Rating:2.0 (1 / 3 / 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 CD information and general comments see op.12/1

Comments on the Performance

  1. 10’38”; 1/4 = 116
    The tone in this recording — especially with the violin — is fairly dull, unfortunately (the violin rarely reaches more than a mf), the interpretation in general is OK, the piano part diligent and attentive (though the pedaling in the Coda is not entirely accurate).
  2. 6’27”; 1/4 = 46
    Very slow, but also subtle, melancholic, singing, introverted, almost serene.
  3. 2’05”; 1/4 = 225 — 210 (Trio)
    Too heavy, too slow — I’m missing the Scherzo character.
  4. 8’25”; 1/4 = 98 (theme)
    The violin sounds very modest here (not sure how much of this is the recording, and what is the violinist). The piano is good, though a bit handsome. Like Menuhin, Oistrakh holds the two fermatas in the Adagio, though with more diligence.
Recommendation:No
Rating:2.5 (2 / 3 / 2 / 3)

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 CD information and general comments see op.12/1

Comments on the Performance

  1. 9’29”; 1/4 = 124
    The violin dominates this recording; not very transparent, unfortunately.
  2. 5’41”; 1/4 = 54
    The piano part is very good — unfortunately, the violin is way too close to the microphone. Also, some of the 64th passages in the violin part are played with too much emphasis, too “literal”, too explicit — they should rather be embellishments, sort of a cadenza.
  3. 1’39”; 1/4 = 270 — 234 (Trio)
    The Scherzo is way too fast — and stiff, rough / coarse: I don’t see the homer in this piece. The Trio is slightly better, but also too fast; it loses all detail & subtlety.
  4. 8’24”; 1/4 = 96 (theme)
    Grumiaux excels with his beautiful, dense tone (which he was famous for!) — but he dominates the entire movement, even where the violin part clearly is an accompaniment. The two fermatas in the Adagio part are played by the piano alone — as if they were placed on a break in the violin part.
Recommendation:No
Rating:2.8 (3 / 3 / 2 / 3)

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 CD information and general comments see op.12/1

Comments on the Performance

  1. 10’34”; 1/4 = 116
    Good tempo, good pedaling in the Coda, sometimes a bit loud, coarse (rarely serene), Perlman’s nervous vibrato is irritating!
  2. 6’40”; 1/4 = 43
    At this tempo, the melody is vastly overstretched; the p in the piano part is not very subtle.
  3. 2’02”; 1/4 = 216 — 200 (Trio)
    The Scherzo is OK, but a bit heavy. I like the dance character in the Trio.
  4. 8’46”; 1/4 = 98 (theme)
    Good, lively, sometimes a bit “handsome”. Perlman sometimes (unnecessarily) interprets “intense” on long notes as strong vibrato.
Recommendation:Maybe for the last movement?
Rating:3.0 (3 / 2 / 3 / 4)

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 CD information and general comments see op.12/1

Comments on the Performance

  1. 10’41”; 1/4 = 116
    They are fairly close to the notation, a good interpretation in general. In the middle of the exposition the piano has eighths triplets in the right hand, along with eighths in the left hand — the triplets are played inégales, almost like eighths followed by two sixteenths. This per se might be debatable — but then the violinist should do the same in the following bars — which he doesn’t. The pedaling in the Coda is not quite accurate (holding the entire bars, but not the long stretch over three bars).
  2. 5’48”; 1/4 = 50
    Very good, singing in the violin, with excellent dynamic control, harmonious, subtle, serene, calm, with moderate vibrato only (fortunately!).
  3. 2’05”; 1/4 = 210 — 180 (Trio)
    Too “kind”, too smooth, too little sf, too little humor; the Trio is slightly better.
  4. 8’38”; 1/4 = 92 (theme)
    The piano is not always very accurate in the articulation — almost a bit sloppy. Could have more expression: too uniform and simple. On the other hand, the instrument balance is fairly good here.
Recommendation:Perhaps one of the better conventional performances
Rating:3.2 (3 / 4 / 3 / 3)

Gidon Kremer, Martha Argerich (1995)

Beethoven: Violin sonatas vol.4, Kremer, Argerich, CD cover

Beethoven: Violin Sonatas Nos. 9, 10 (opp.47, 96)

Gidon KremerMartha Argerich

DG 447 054-2 (stereo); ℗ 1995

Beethoven: Violin sonatas vol.4, Kremer, Argerich, UPC-A barcode
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Gidon Kremer and Martha Argerich (1995) — for general comments see op.47

Comments on the Performance

  1. 10’34”; 1/4 = 116
    Excellent phrasing, agogics, expressive, very nice dialog / team playing, detailed articulation — classes above all of the above interpretations!
  2. 6’29”; 1/4 = 42
    Phrasing, articulation and dynamic control are OK, very expressive — unfortunately Kremer uses a very heavy vibrato; combined with the tempo (way too slow, over stretching the melody), this movement is (IMO) somewhat of a failure, unfortunately (at a high level, though).
  3. 1’56”; 1/4 = 216 — 216 (Trio)
    Excellent: I like the sforzati, the clumsy humor. The Trio combines humor and dance character. Interesting idea: they start the Coda a little slower, for a short final build-up.
  4. 8’23”; 1/4 = 94 (theme)
    The articulation is closer to Beethoven’s notation than in any of the above interpretations. This performance is vivid, lively, emotional, has temperament — and humor: excellent! In the piano cadenzas, Argerich uses the holding pedal on the last scale — a very nice effect.
Recommendation:Yes
Rating:4.5 (5 / 3 / 5 / 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 CD information and general comments see op.12/1

Comments on the Performance

  1. 11’29”; 1/4 = ca. 110
    Once more an example of perfect musician partnership, finely tuned, transparent, and the violin has no problem in sounding through the piano part, even when playing ppp, sul ponticello!
  2. 5’24”; 1/4 = 53
    Close to Capuçon / Braley in the basic characteristics — but with lots more phrasing, diction, agogics. Embellishments are played as what they are. Very expressive; very nice how the violin lets the melody flourish up to f, and as in the preceding movement, the violin has no problem being heard through the pain sound, also in the sotto voce parts (without vibrato, naturally), and when she uses an “airy bow” in the ppp.
  3. 1’53”; 1/4 = 216 — 216 (Trio)
    Close in character (and tempo) to Kremer / Argerich — but with much less effort: simply excellent!
  4. 8’49”; 1/4 = 92 (theme)
    Compared to Martha Argerich, Alexander Melnikov may be less emotional / eruptive — on the other hand, he is even closer to Beethoven’s notation in his detailed articulation and phrasing. Isabelle Faust keeps the theme simple and cantabile, really like a folk song. In all these interpretations, this is the only one where I noted a distinct dynamic alteration in the first variation, where the two repeats are played softer, more p.
    The other point that caught my attention were the two fermatas in the Adagio part. the violin does not play the fermatas — but instead, (similar to Argerich) Melnikov carefully uses the holding pedal in his cadenzas, hereby imitating the weak dampening of the fortepiano in Beethoven’s time: a very nice idea!
Recommendation:YES!
Rating:5.0 (5 / 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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