BEETHOVEN Violin Sonatas (Hanslip)
I’d looked forward to this disc. Chloë Hanslip and Danny Driver are both engaging and extremely accomplished artists, and this release, apparently the first in a projected Beethoven sonata series, begins at the beginning with Op 12 No 1 and takes them deep into the cycle, ending with the Haydnesque Op 30 No 3.
And for the most part, these are engaging and accomplished performances, leaning towards understatement. Hanslip has a wide-grained tone which, coupled to Driver’s quiet wit, makes for some lovely moments: the hushed pay-off at the end of the Adagio of Op 30 No 1, for example, and the way they jointly weave their way through the curling opening motif of the same sonata. To say that these interpretations are unaffected doesn’t imply that they’re lacking in character: witness the hint of Hungarian spice that the pair bring to the slow minuet of Op 30 No 3, and the cheerful swagger that they find in the finale of Op 12 No 1. These are not flamboyant readings (though there’s an amusing sense of mischief about the outer movements of Op 30 No 3), but they create a world in which you want to spend time.
Unfortunately, the disc is marred by drab recorded sound, in which piano and violin can sound semi-detached within the overall picture. It was recorded live at Turner Sims Concert Hall in Southampton and it has the slightly ad hoc feel of a live broadcast. Likewise Hanslip’s habit of hammering cadences and the tops of phrases, a technique that helps a violin’s sound carry to the back of a concert hall but which, on a chamber recording, distorts the all‑important sense of intimacy. Hopefully the next release in the series can find a happier balance.