Itzhak Perlman's '70s recordings with Vladimir Ashkenazy resulted in one of the finest Kreutzer Sonata performances ever recorded. At this live 1998 recital, Perlman is joined by another piano great, Martha Argerich, on that very piece along with Franck's Violin Sonata. Though the two powerhouses haven't recorded together before, they prove to be both sympathetic and intuitive partners. By now, we've come to expect Argerich to steal the show with her brute force and passionate playing, but Perlman's lyricism throughout the first two Beethoven movements is the real highlight. (It's not that Argerich is being tepid; the room's acoustics and microphones just favor the violinist.) On Franck's Violin Sonata, the duo fare even better. Argerich and Perlman sound like they've been playing together forever, and the music's melancholic, but playful poetry really comes into focus. All told, a memorable live performance by two classical greats.
This SACD transfer of Anne-Sophie Mutter’s Beethoven violin sonatas, taken from a series of live recordings from 1998, does not transcend the questionable interpretations. In each of these famous sonatas, Mutter takes excessive liberties with respect to dynamics and phrasing, and while some listeners may appreciate the thought and care she puts into these readings, it sounds as if she is trying a bit too hard to be “musical”. For example, just before the exposition repeat of the “Spring” sonata, several instances of disproportionate agogic pauses, inconsistent use of vibrato, random adherences to sforzando markings, and a sporadic disregard for (or recasting of) dynamics combine to produce an overly fussy performance that lacks momentum and a sense of direction.
Beethoven wrote ten sonatas for piano and violin, the best known of which are the "Spring" and the "Kreutzer" sonatas. The fame of these two works has tended to result in neglect of the remaining sonatas. This is unfortunate because Beethoven's remaining eight sonatas for piano and violin include much great music. The set of 10 works is of an appropriate size to warrant exploration of the entire group for those with a passion for the violin or for Beethoven. It includes an appealing mix of familiar and unfamiliar music.