A revolutionary man living in a revolutionary time, Beethoven used the piano as his personal musical laboratory. The piano sonata became, more than any other genre of music, a place where he could experiment with harmony, motivic development, the contextual use of form, and, most important, his developing view of music as a self-expressive art. Beethoven's 32 piano sonatas include some of his most popular works as well as some of his most experimental. More than any other of his amazing works, Beethoven's piano sonatas are his personal testament, expressed in his own voice.
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.
At the heart of Beethoven’s life’s statement as a composer lies the cycle of sixteen string quartets, which, to this day, has retained a special status and reverence. Since 2012, the Elias String Quartet has been immersed in its Beethoven Project, performing all Beethoven’s string quartets at venues throughout the UK. In this live recording, the ensemble captures both the intimacy and grandeur of the works. With an ever-expanding recording catalogue that has been met with widespread critical acclaim, the quartet is delighted to release this disc, the first volume of its complete Beethoven cycle to be recorded live at Wigmore Hall over the coming Seasons.
How best to describe the performance here? One word: savage. Taken from the FOH tapes recorded by Greg Dean and mixed with audience mics from the Multi-track ADATS by Alex Mundy, this is a powerful testament to the latitude and grasp of the Double Duo in the live arena. Level Five squashes all before it, packing in more musical weight and density into seven minutes than many groups manage over an entire career. A high-powered and potent version of Facts Of Life makes for compelling listening – the revved up solo from Fripp is a joy to behold as is Belew’s rollercoaster solo on LTIA IV.