The Beethoven Project at The Red Hedgehog: Sonatas for Piano & Violin (3)

Sonata in G, Op.30/3
Sonata in A, Op.47 (Kreutzer)
Sonata in G, Op.96

Paul Barritt (violin) & James Lisney (piano)

Reviewed by: Kevin Rogers

Reviewed: 24 June, 2007
Venue: The Red Hedgehog, Highgate, London N6

This was the final concert in this series of the complete Beethoven Sonatas for Piano and Violin given by Paul Barritt and James Lisney. The series as a whole, with this recital being no exception, has been distinguished by musicianship of the highest order.

For the sake of continuity the sonatas were played in the order of their opus number, meaning that the largest of the three works heard here. the ‘Kreutzer’, came before the interval and was shorn of its repeats in the outer movement because of timing considerations; this duo usually plays all of the repeats when the ‘Kreutzer’ is not part of a cycle or when it comes after the interval.

The piano’s tone seemed muffled at the beginning of Opus 30/Number 3, especially when contrasted with Barritt’s crispness. Later on, with a lighter touch from Lisney, the piece buoyed its way along. The second movement offered calm and considered moments, with plenty of dynamic variance and some episodes almost dance-like. There was much life in the final movement, with a power that wanted to erupt, but this was never allowed to get out of control and the end was almost humorous!

Then followed a ‘Kreutzer’ of distinction: superb (and true)prestos framing a seductive, charming and vital account of the Variations that form the middle movement. If music can breathe new life into one then this account exuded enough energy to allow one to run a marathon. The opening movement, after the calm of the Adagio sostenuto bars that begin the piece, was full of vigour, its biting pizzicatos just right – the players speaking clearly and with one voice. The few places marked Adagio offered moments of utmost calm within the surges and battles between the players. Each Variation was well characterised and distinctive: a delightful second was followed by a fluid and passionate account of the third, whereas the fourth was shown to be the heart and soul of the piece. The finale was thrilling.

The contrast between the last two sonatas is stark: the former is a thrill ride whereas the latter is considered and pastoral. The command these players have of the music was brought out wonderfully in this sonata: the opening Allegro moderato was fluid without being rushed and the low rumblings from the piano provided just a hint of melancholy. The Adagio had a meditative quality, brought out with brooding passion by the violin and the coda of the scherzo was suitably amusing. This pair of musicians showed here again how well they execute slow phrases in the midst of energetic writing, as in the final movement where the last eight presto bars were a great flourish, rounding off this outstanding cycle in great fashion.

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