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.
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.
With the return of these stereo recordings by David Oistrakh and Lev Oborin (made in Paris in 1962), many collectors will find an automatic first choice. This new Philips set presents these accounts in fine digital transfers and has the benefit of having all 10 sonatas placed sequentially across four CDs. The performances are exceptionally fine, sometimes not as dramatic as Schneiderhan's (DG), it's true, but always intensely musical and natural… What you'll find here is a duo that devotes minute attentiveness to every passing detail, along the way conveying a powerful feeling of joyfulness and discovery. This is essential listening, and not just for violin devotees: this set belongs in everyone's collection!Michael Jameson, ClassicsToday.com
Menuhin and Kempff seem in just about total agreement about how to play these sonatas: with enough attack to project their dramatic moments in a domestic context, and with enough repose to show their lyrical moments in the very best of lights.