BEETHOVEN: Violin Sonata in A Major; Violin Sonata No. 4 in a; Violin Sonata No. 6 in A Major – Zanta Hofmeyr, v./ Ilia Radoslavov, p. – Blue Griffin

Energetic, well-crafted readings of three selected Beethoven sonatas for violin and piano.

BEETHOVEN: Violin Sonata in A Major, Op. 12, No. 2; Violin Sonata No. 4 in a, Op. 23; Violin Sonata No. 6 in A Major, Op. 30, No. 1 – Zanta Hofmeyr, v./ Ilia Radoslavov, p. – Blue Griffin BGR425, 57:45 (1/9/17) [Distr. by Albany] ****:

Recorded 13-15 March 2016, these three Beethoven sonatas from these two gifted enthusiasts, Zanta Hofmeyr and Ilia Radoslavov, enjoy an immediacy of effect quite captivating, given the crisp articulation from their respective instruments. The 1799 A Major Sonata (dedicated to Antonio Salieri) sails in easy, neat triplet figures between the two principals in its opening Allegro vivace, whose “striving for strange modulations” irritated one contemporary reviewer of the work. Like the opening movement, the Andante proceeds by patient imitation, intoning a sweet tune in a minor and then weaving a lyrical aria, dolce et legato, between them. Beethoven saves his quietly revolutionary new style – at least insofar as Mozart and Haydn had been predecessors – for his Allegro piacevole finale, in which syncopations and shifts in dynamics keep both players and listeners absorbed. Beethoven’s sense of humor exhibits itself in the keyboard part, both in its chromatic modulations and a slight tendency to a bravura that outshines the violin contribution.

The Sonata No. 4 (1800) means to accompany the F Major “Spring” Sonata, Op. 24. The piece opens rather darkly, thrusting forward aggressively, Presto, in a series of minor keys that includes e minor for a secondary tune. The anxious mood finds relief in the development section, whose length remains unique, since it repeats the first half of the sonata. Besides sporting an austere countenance, the music displays Beethoven’s mastery of counterpoint. The two principals clearly enjoy the interchanges in the Andante movement in the tonic major, in which slow movement and scherzo combine in playful imitation of a two-note theme from the piano. A fugato links the two primary themes, the second of which has tripping, dotted rhythms. The use of falling and rising seconds appears rather forward looking on Beethoven’s part. In sonata-form, the music moves to a recapitulation whose florid ornaments add a bit of color to this quasi-theme and variations. The dark hue of a minor returns for the Allego molto finale. The music establishes a sense of menace for what should be a French rondo with a theme borrowed from J.J. Fux. Set in periods, the music has Ms. Hofmeyr refuse to align in pulse with the keyboard, and so the askew sensibility marks Beethoven’s irony. Late in the movement, the intensity becomes startling and luxurious, a real adumbration of the power this composer would bring to his chosen medium of expression.

The Sonata No. 6 in A (1802) provides the middle work of a triptych that bids farewell to the Classical style, just as both the Second Symphony and the Third Piano Concerto would initiate a revolt against past modes of expression. But even here, the violin will introduce the latter movements, and the relative proportions of the development section and coda have broadened beyond Haydn’s means. The sonata begins lyrically, with its tumult reserved for its secondary tune. Mr. Radoslavov executes several strong scalar passages in the course of the development. The partners coalesce neatly as they move to the coda, which has dispelled any sense of conflict with a serene assurance. The D Major Adagio molto espessivo proffers an aria of uncommon beauty that will modulate into b minor. What begins as a dotted French rhythm will transform in running triplets, a forecast of the progression of the Eroica’s funeral march finale. In the middle of the Adagio, Beethoven grants us an episode that Schubert seized with both hands, particularly those keyboard triplets. The Allegretto: Theme and (Six) Variations for this sonata’s finale has replaced Beethoven’s original conception, which had been decidedly manic – and assigned to the demonic Kreutzer Sonata. The violin and piano fully complement each other in the gracious opening tune, moving in a duple meter that will transform into a sprightlier version in the final variant, Mozart-style. The most noteworthy variant lies in the fifth; again, a kind of promise for Beethoven’s capabilities in this procedure, which will conclude his revolutionary Third Symphony.

—Gary Lemco

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