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Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Violin Sonata No. 5 in F Major, Op. 24, 'Spring' [23:22]
Violin Sonata No. 6 in A Major, Op. 30/1 [25:02]
Nap de Klijn (violin)
Alice Heksch (piano)
rec. 20-21 July 1954, Amsterdam

If you are curious to know who Nap de Klijn (1909-1979) and Alice Heksch (1912-5197) were, you will struggle to find anything on the Internet. There appears to be a dearth of information available. All I could find out was that the two were a husband and wife team who called themselves the Amsterdam Duo. The Dutch violinist Nap de Klijn was the founder of the Netherlands String Quartet. My colleague Jonathan Woolf reviewed a pioneering 2-CD set of Mozart sonatas, on an original forte piano, which the duo set down around the same time these Beethoven recordings were made.

The duo's 'Spring' Sonata is every bit as sunny and fresh as one could hope for. The opening movement looks forward to renewed life with anticipation, and the playing is both engaging and flowing. In the slow movement the meditative qualities are emphasized. De Klijn's warm tone floats gossamer-like over Heksch's sensitively contoured accompaniment. The brief off-beat Scherzo is light and airy, preceding a finale Rondo which is elegantly expressive and joyous.

I am pleased that the coupling is the Sonata No. 6 in A major, Op. 30 No. 1, my particular favorite of the ten. In common with the 'Spring', the work exudes lyricism and optimism. The gloriously rendered slow movement, every bit as fine as the Oistrakh/Oborin traversal, radiates a luminous warmth. De Klijn commands a burnished rounded tone with plenty of bloom, nourished by a richly varied vibrato, conferring some endearing tonal hues. The finale, a genial theme and variations, was originally intended for the 'Kreutzer' Sonata. It is here delivered with unruffled ease and technical panache.

Being a husband and wife team probably gave the duo the luxury of generous rehearsal time. You can tell. Singularity of vision, matching phasing and dynamics – it all contributes to making these performances a sheer delight to listen to. The engineers at the time managed to secure a perfect balance between the two instruments, so neither dominates. Forgotten Records have transferred and digitally remastered these recordings from what sounds like a well-preserved copy of a Philips LP (A00234L). I listened with much pleasure to these convincing performances, so I regret that the duo did not record a complete cycle. On the strength of this, I sincerely hope I get the opportunity at some point to hear their Mozart Sonata recordings. All told, this constitutes a highly desirable release.

Stephen Greenbank

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