BEETHOVEN Complete Violin Sonatas – Faust, Melnikov
The musical sleight of hand used by these expert players to focus the very different character of each sonata is in itself cause for wonder. Though quite different as musical personalities – Faust, subtle and quietly formal; Melnikov, a master of the meaningful pause – the combination of the two fires a laser between the staves. Fleetness and elegance are very much to the fore in the Op 12 set, beauty of tone, too, especially in the First Sonata.
The Spring Sonata is lyrical and playful, the opening as easy-going as anyone could wish, the Adagio like a song without words, Faust’s tone warming but relatively restrained, Melnikov a discreetly supportive partner. The more dramatic sonatas are muscular yet very light on their feet. The A minor, Op 23, is Sturm und Drang with a vengeance, and both players make a point of (metaphorically) pursing their lips: in fact, you sometimes feel that what isn’t being expressed outweighs what is. Of the three Op 30 sonatas, the kernel is the C minor, where Faust and Melnikov strike a perfect balance between fire and ice. Their little “freedoms” are very telling but although the shaping of phrases is obviously the product of considered teamwork, you never feel that they’re playing safe. Cautious Beethoven makes for a very passionless partnership, and there’s no sense of that.
For many, the success of any recorded Beethoven violin sonata cycle rests on the effectiveness of its Kreutzer, and again Faust and Melnikov make the grade with oodles of drama and well judged tempi: nothing is too fast for comfort or too slow to get airborne. The Kreutzer shares its silver-disc space with a documentary DVD which is both musically revealing and entertaining – but I shan’t let on and spoil the fun! Airy, well balanced sound provides a realistic aural context for what may well prove the leading Beethoven violin sonata cycle of the decade, certainly one that respectfully challenges conventions so that even collectors wedded to their Kreisler, Grumiaux, Heifetz, Oistrakh, Kremer and Szigeti cycles stand to learn and be musically stimulated. A marvellous set.