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Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Complete Violin Sonatas
Violin Sonata No.1 in D, Op.12 No.1 (1797-98) [18:38]
Violin Sonata No.2 in A, Op.12 No.2 (1797-98) [15:38]
Violin Sonata No.3 in E flat, Op.12 No.3 (1797-98) [17:38]
Violin Sonata No.4 in A minor, Op.23 (1800) [15:06]
Violin Sonata No.5 in F Spring, Op.23 (1801) [23:33]
Violin Sonata No.6 in A, Op.30 No.1 (1801-02) [22:19]
Violin Sonata No.7 in C minor, Op.30 No.2 1801-02) [25:48]
Violin Sonata No.8 in G, Op.30 No.3 (1801-02) [18:38]
Violin Sonata No.9 in A Kreutzer, Op.47 (1803) [37:05]
Violin Sonata No.10 in G, Op.96 (1812) [23:20]
Petr Messiereur (violin)
Stanislav Bogunia (piano)
rec. 1994-95
PHAIA PHU032.34 [3 CDs: 67:27 + 71:42 + 77:37]

As first violin of the Talich Quartet, Petr Messiereur proved himself to be a musician of the highest class, a sound technician, and a thoughtful chamber colleague who set fine tempi. As a sonata partner he evinced equally thoughtful qualities and his Mozart sonata cycle with Stanislav Bogunia is highly regarded.
 
This set of the complete Beethoven sonatas was previously unknown to me. It was recorded between 1994 and 1995 and originally appeared on Calliope, though originally issued on individual discs, and then in a boxed set of all the sonatas.
 
There is much that is admirable about the care with which both men went about their collaboration. Clearly they have thought through important questions of leading voices and balance, and the extent to which Bogunia catches the ear is testimony, I suppose, both to the unusualness of his contribution and to the violinistís collegiate and refined responses in this repertoire. Itís tempting to think of this as almost Mozartean in spirit, but I think, rather, that it represents an unusual look at the body of sonatas.
 
Certainly there are strong attempts to colour and characterise each sonata appropriately, but even in Op.12 No.3 and the Spring, where one might expect a sense of genuine engagement, one finds a somewhat detached approach that tends to dampen the ardour inherent in the music. One finds, time and again, that phrases stubbornly refuse to take flight and that the aerial sense, and the dynamic motor, in these sonatas, not least the early ones, is frustrated or downplayed. Clearly that is the musical philosophy behind the performances, and it bears the virtue of consistency, at least.
 
The opening of Sonata No.8 can be a little restless, and in the slow movement the pianist is inclined to point up detail that tends to overbalance the playing and draw the ear away from good ensemble. The Kreutzer sonata is small-scaled to a fault, and Boguniaís rhythmic pianism is the main focus of interest. The violinistís intonation and tone, which can be razory in fast passagework, are also not above approach. The Tenth sonata marks an interpretative impasse. The first movement stubbornly refuses to take flight (as noted of the early sonatas too), whilst the slow movement is introspective almost to the point of being non-committal. Messiereurís tone is focused but occasionally fragile and rather lacking in variance of colour. Oneís ear is drawn to the pianistís chuntering passagework ahead of the violinistís lyric line.
 
In truth, the performances are not really competitive.
 
Jonathan Woolf

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