BEETHOVEN: Two Sonatas – Grumiaux, v./Arrau, p. – Pentatone

Beethoven as he was meant to be played.

BEETHOVEN: Violin Sonatas No. 1 in D, Opus 12:1; No. 5 in F, Opus 24, “Spring” – Arthur Grumiaux, violin/ Claudio Arrau, p. – Pentatone multichannel (4.0) SACD PTC 5186 235, 45:22 (8/26/16) [Distr. by Naxos] *****:

They don’t get much better than this—Beethoven violin sonatas, that is. Grumiaux is one of those special cases whose CDs I return to often. That meltingly creamy tone, whether in chamber music, Beethoven sonatas, or Bach Sonatas and Partitas, bends the will of the composer’s tonal suggestions, whatever they may have been, to the mind and technique of a very special performer. Indeed, Grumiaux’s sensitive touch graces any work of art that he saw fit to engage, and for those whom beauty of sound is something special, if not mandatory, this release will send you to the stars.

Alongside an equally dedicated and perspicacious partner like Claudio Arrau, it only gets better. Sometimes recordings that pair such talented and decidedly insightful performers like those here result in surly and surely misguided outcomes (one only needs to listen to the recording of the Beethoven Triple Concerto on EMI with Karajan, Rostropovich, and Richter to understand this), but here what we get is musicianship of the highest order.

The ten sonatas of Beethoven for piano and violin are not “late” works; they range from his late early to middle periods, but his innovations do continue what Mozart started in his later sonatas in terms of equality of instruments. From the very first sonata we are aware that the violin is announcing its presence as a leader of the activities, and this will continue on through the Opus 12 set. By the time we get to the eponymous “Spring” sonata (a title not given by the composer, though one is hard pressed to deny its intense relevance to the tone of the work), the integration is established and complete, a fully dichotomous and equal partnership.

Arrau and Grumiaux provide masterly interpretive finesse and brilliant emotion in a wonderful recording adorned by superb sound. Don’t miss it!

—Steven Ritter

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