BEETHOVEN Violin Sonatas Nos 3, 7 & 10
Period instruments are to the fore here, an anonymous Italian violin from 1690 (the Gaulard bow dates from 1820), and a fortepiano, the work of Maximilian Schott in Vienna in 1835. The sound they make ranges from blatant busyness in the first movement of the lovely Third Sonata to prayer-like contemplation in the Adagio cantabile of Op 30 No 2, where Baptiste Lopez’s chaste playing style suits the music’s withdrawn mood. There’s also a palpable sense of camaraderie in the ensuing Scherzo, while the finale enjoys the benefit of edgy drama. A similar juxtaposition of profound reverie and fun lies at the centre of the very last sonata, Op 96 (of 1812) and here Lopez indulges the Adagio espressivo with about as much warmth as the dictates of period performance deem appropriate. However, the outer sections of the Scherzo sound manic, though the Trio allows for some degree of relaxation.
Enthusiasts for the ‘period performance’ tradition who have read thus far will likely guess what to expect. These are bold, assertive performances, where the two players share a more or less equal interpretative footing, the pianist larger-than-life, which suits the Op 12 Sonata better than it does the two later works. But subtlety, elegance and telling gradations of tone? Not much, I’m afraid. OK, I appreciate that Alina Ibragimova and Cédric Tiberghien take the modern-instrument route, but they do so with a memorably light touch; and when you hear how trippingly they emerge from the thoughtful world of the C minor Sonata’s slow movement to its chuckling Scherzo, you realise what’s missing from the version under review. Happily both recordings are widely available to stream (on Spotify, Apple Music, Qobuz, etc), so if you have a computer or smartphone to hand you can sample both for yourself.