Decca The Originals 475 7509, 61:35 (Distrib. Universal) ****:
Recorded October 1973 (Kreutzer) and June 1974 (Spring), these two staples of the violin sonata repertory find serious, even explosive proponents in Perlman (b. 1945) and Ashkenazy (b. 1937), who had begun their partnership in 1968. The rasping, aggressive style Perlman assumes for the Kreutzer will remind many auditors of Nathan Milstein’s equally impassioned, noble approach. Noted more as a purveyor of technically fluent sweetness, Perlman here exhibits a dynamism and drive which were not always in evidence later in his career, when he settled for suavity over musical penetration.
Ashkenazy seems just as eager to dig into the notes; and he, too, can glide easily from vehemence to silken, cushioned sounds. After a extremely studied Adagio sostenuto, the two launch into the A Minor Presto of the opening movement with every intention to beard the lion. The exalted Andante con variazioni already, for my money, exhibits the sentimental side of Perlman, but he never descends into cloying mannerism. Ashkenazy keeps a precise, light hand on the equally prominent piano part; several variants achieve a jeweled, music-box sonority. Each of the players trades trills without missing a beat. The Finale: Presto luxuriates in its tarantella sensibility, tour de force wherein two young musical firebrands may strut their wares.
The Spring Sonata allows the sweetly playful sides of our artists‚ natures to shine, although the relative sonorous richness of each instrument is carefully modulated, especially Ashkenazy’s steely piano. Refined, strong lines and accents rule. The B-flat Major Adagio molto espessivo brings out Beethoven’s tender sensibilities, a real Perlman showpiece. The all-too-brief Scherzo and Trio confirms Oscar Wilde’s quip that one can resist everything except temptation. The good-natured Rondo projects a hearty charm, especially in the piano part, a gentle concession to the Classical impulses that guide it. The two artists recorded the A Major Sonata, Op. 12, No. 2 in October 1973, at the same sessions with the Kreutzer Sonata. Why Decca could not affix this third installment of affectionately, elegantly shaped Beethoven sonatas to these two selections defies my powers of explanation.
— Gary Lemco