Renaud Capuçon & Frank Braley play Beethoven at Wigmore Hall

Sonata in F for Piano and Violin, Op.24 (Spring)
Sonata in C minor for Piano and Violin, Op.30/2

Renaud Capuçon (violin) & Frank Braley (piano)

Reviewed by: Ben Hogwood

Reviewed: 7 February, 2011
Venue: Wigmore Hall, London

Renaud CapuçonA ‘light and shade’ pairing of Beethoven violin sonatas made for an attractive BBC Radio 3 Lunchtime Concert from Renaud Capuçon and Frank Braley, whose recording of the complete set of twelve sonatas has recently been released. Throughout, the pair demonstrated excellent ensemble and a keen response to the dynamics of the music, particularly in the turbulent C minor sonata. Capuçon’s tone, full throughout, was vibrato-rich – not perhaps as suitable for some of the quieter moments of the ‘Spring’ Sonata, however, with the Adagio coming across as sweetly toned but a touch too sentimental.

With the sonatas explicitly written for “piano and violin”, the two musicians as a duo made every effort to balance their contributions. Braley was particularly effective in this respect, and the two realised the freshness of melodic invention from the start of the ‘Spring’, the tempo slow but airy, bringing a tranquil element. Braley’s piano-playing had an attractive shape to its phrases, and the to and fro of the short scherzo and the finale that followed were most enjoyable.

Capuçon and Braley took a more robust approach to the C minor Sonata. This dramatic piece, cast in one of the composer’s favourite keys, could have been more explosive, the ‘con brio’ direction of the first movement not always in evidence. A charming but rich Adagio found serenity in its closing pages, while the exciting centre of the performance proved to be the scherzo, enjoying the tension between double- and triple-time. To enhance the syncopations Capuçon stressed the jagged tone of his open ‘E’-string, an effect countered by the hollow low-register sound created by Braley to begin the last movement, which kept a largely stern countenance, occasionally breaking into a smile as the music touched on a major key.

That smile became wider in the encore, the effervescent finale of the third of the Opus 30 sonatas, the one in G, naturally accented and with appropriate sleights of tempo.

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