Tuesday, 1 March 2011

BEETHOVEN VIOLIN SONATAS / Renaud Capuçon and Frank Braley / Review

BEETHOVEN Violin Sonatas
Renaud Capuçon, Violin
Frank Braley, Piano
Yong Siew Toh Conservatory
Monday (28 February 2011)

This review was published in The Straits Times on 3 March 2011 with the title "Sated by Beethoven".

The French violinist Renaud Capuçon’s lesson on Beethoven’s violin music continued with performances of the ten sonatas for piano and violin over three evenings at the Conservatory. To be able to attend all three recitals would have been musical paradise itself, but a single evening’s treats was enough manna from heaven to keep one sufficiently sated

Beethoven conceived these works for his own role as pianist, and so the piano is more often the protagonist and has more the notes to overcome. For this, French pianist Frank Braley’s sensitive advocacy deserved every bit of credit in the vital partnership. The togetherness of both pianist and violinist made every note and phrase greater than the sum of individual parts.

Only four years (from 1799 to 1803) separated the three sonatas on show this evening, fruits of Beethoven’s impetuous youth. Sonata No.4 in A minor (Op.23) opened with fiery and passionate gestures, oft associated with the composer’s fist-shaking and table thumping exploits.

United and empowered by the force of will, the duo scaled its heights and plumbed the depths. The slow movement was an intimate conversation between the two, but inhabited with the lightness of friends sharing a quiet joke. The finale mixed wit with seriousness, as it is with much of Beethoven.

Next was Sonata No.3 in E flat major (Op.12 No.3), distinguished by a most daunting piano part, yet one closely intertwined with the violin. The hymn-like central movement, shaded with much care, looked forward to more mature vistas. A chirpy Mozartean Rondo that closed flew on feathered wings, but coloured with Beethoven’s more earthy and raucous humour.

The longest and most famous was Sonata No.9 in A major (Op.47), better known as the Kreutzer Sonata. Capuçon’s finely-shaded solo set the tone for dramatics that was to influence Tolstoy’s violent novella of the same title. The second movement’s variations were perfectly judged, where its longeurs caressed, passing like mere seconds. This was the calm before the storm, with a furious swirling tarantella in the Presto finale sweeping the audience into raptures.

The frisson of live performances - amply supplied this evening - remind us why, despite the many wonderful recordings available, the joy of concert going will never go out of fashion.

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