Author Topic: Op 47  (Read 1420 times)

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Offline Todd

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Op 47
« on: November 09, 2020, 05:39:01 AM »
It's 2020.  Two hundred and fifty years ago this year, a dude named Lou was born.  He wrote some music.  Some of it is pretty good.  Turns out that even today, some performing musicians see fit to perform and record what he wrote.  In addition to some slightly above average symphonies, and a few pretty decent solo piano and string quartet compositions, he wrote other stuff.  Among that stuff are ten sonatas for violin and piano.  And among those, a couple are more famous than the others.  One can sort of judge the fame from the use of nicknames.  For no other reason than quasi-randomness, I decided to plow through all of the versions of the Kreutzer sonata in my collection to see if a new favorite emerges.  So . . .



I decided to start the survey by reaching back almost a century to the recording by Jacques Thibaud and Alfred Cortot from 1929.  Thibaud starts off, and his playing sounds both old-fashioned in its use of vibrato and portamento, but it also sounds elegant and rarified.  The double stops have a sort of faux-rough sound.  Cortot, well, this recording makes the listener sad he didn't record Beethoven closer to his prime rather than in the 50s, because here he plays with ample energy and drive, and his nonchalant nature offers a contrast to the more fastidious Tibaud - and some of his dropped notes in what is, in essence, a live recording, don't matter a whit.  He's like a French Kempff in that regard.  The Andante con variazioni opens with more wonderful portamento playing from Thibaud that simply would not pass muster in conservatories today.  The duo dash off the variations with a sense of lightness not always found in later recordings.  The Presto sounds fresh and alert and not too heavy or overwrought.  It's just good, truly old-fashioned music-making.  The transfers are good enough so that doesn't really worry too much about what's missing.  A strong start to the survey.

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Offline Todd

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Re: Op 47
« Reply #1 on: November 10, 2020, 05:08:16 AM »


Sticking with old time recordings, Béla Bartók and József Szigeti follow.  Szigeti opens up the first movement with some slow playing filled with a fairly hefty amount of rubato, and Bartók enters with a measured tempo and a sonority that sounds "big" even through the old recording.  Here's a case of two musicians who really work as equals, for while each instrumentalist gets his turn, the back and forth is seamless.  While they crank up the speed and intensity, much of the playing is on the somewhat relaxed or comfortable side, and being a concert recording, it lacks studio perfection.  The duo mix things up nicely in the quite varied Andante, and they close with a peppy, fun, bouncy Presto.  Bartók's pianism is quite delightful here.  Overall, it's a wonderful historical document, but not a disc I turn to frequently.  I don't see that changing.

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Offline Todd

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Re: Op 47
« Reply #2 on: November 11, 2020, 05:44:29 AM »


Going with another pianist-composer of a rather different pianistic temperament, Fazil Say and Patricia Kopatchinskaja follow.  Kopatchinskaja opens with something that almost evokes Bach in the Adagio sostenuto, and Say announces his arrival with a honkin' loud chord, and then the two proceed to deliver a fast, intense, pointed, staccato on staccato Presto, with Kopatchinskaja's sound slicing through the piano and into the listener's ears.  They find opportunities to completely change tack and playing some passages as sort of a miniature, scampering joke, far removed from standard conceptions of the work.  And the loudest playing slides into banging and screeching, but purposively.  It's a wild ride.  In the Andante, the duo slows down, but doesn't go slow, and they can't seem to make it through a bar without tinkering with the tempo, the dynamics, the phrasing.  Kopatchinskaja, in particular, seems to go out of her way to deliver something jagged and, if not ugly, then not particularly lyrical.  Say pokes around on the keyboard, using rubato and accelerando so obviously, in so heavy handed a manner, that it almost tires the listener.  But it tires the listener because it so uncommonly engaging, demanding unwavering attention and focus.  The artists often push to extremes so much that the variations become uncommonly distinct.  No need for tracking here; the musical landscape changes utterly.  Say thunders out the opening of the Presto, and when Kopatchinskaja joins him, they ramp up the energy, and later in the movement she slashes out her part in a purposely unattractive way, but in such a way to maximize energy and enjoyment.  This is definitely an alternative approach and not one for someone wanting a plain vanilla take.  It's superb.
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Offline Todd

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Re: Op 47
« Reply #3 on: November 12, 2020, 05:52:54 AM »


Thomas Albertus Irnberger and Michael Korstick.  Irnberger starts with a big sound, stops suddenly, then Korstick starts with an even bigger sound.  As the two move from the Adagio to the Presto, Korstick's hard-hitting style is matched by Irnberger's hard-slashing style, though he never just tears into things willy-nilly.  The clear, clean sound allows the full dynamic impact of the playing to be felt, and at times the well-matched duo make Say and Kopatchinskaja seem a bit reserved.  Subtle it is not; exciting, oh yeah, it is that.  The pair slow down in the Andante, and here Korstick revels in producing his mammoth sonority even at slower speed, and Irnberger keeps up, with an admirable precision.  The players adopt a generally very brisk tempo for the full fifteen minute duration, and Korstick lays down a rhythmic foundation that boogies and both play the music, especially the faster variations, with an almost breathless forward momentum.  Gentler playing more or less goes AWOL here, but that's OK.  The Presto is all forward momentum and energy, and high level dynamics is where the duo shine.  Industrial strength classicism.
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Offline Todd

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Re: Op 47
« Reply #4 on: November 13, 2020, 05:33:35 AM »


Francescas Dego and Leonardi.  Dego launches with a rich, warm sound while Leonardi plays with care and exactitude, and much more attention to the lower end of the dynamic spectrum when compared to Korstick.  As the music moves into the Presto, both pick up the pace nicely, and dynamic contrasts sound very fine, and nuanced.  Dego gets some love from the microphones, but Dego is her equal and easily overcomes this in forte passages; the set offers real musical teamwork.  Between about 8' and 9' in, the duo play with a sense of playfulness, though of the well prepared sort, and it sounds quite nice.  The Andante is taken at a reasonable pace, and Dego and Leonardi contrast styles nicely, with the pianist's sparse pedaling and not overdone touch offering fine dynamic shading and solid, well-measured support for Dego's warm sound.  The swifter variations have a sense of playfulness from the first movement, and the slower variations benefit mightily from Dego's nuanced playing, especially her effective quiet playing, and, if anything, her even more effective highest register playing, which sounds almost too sweet to be true.  Leonardi thunders out the opening of the Presto, and Dego joins with her beautiful tone, and the two move into a bouncing finale, with Dego, especially, just sort of bopping along in places, all while sounding silky.  I enjoyed this Violin Sonata cycle when I got it, but it now strikes me as better than my memory indicated. 
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Offline Todd

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Re: Op 47
« Reply #5 on: November 14, 2020, 05:51:13 AM »



Pamela and Claude Frank.  Pamela launches her part with an approach similar to Dego, but less tonally rich, and her father lends a bit more weight to his part.  The entire first movement is taken at a nice tempo, infused with energy, and while Pamela certainly shows her stuff, the foundation and tempo seems more dictated by her father.  That's not a criticism, but an observation.  In a nicely paced Andante, Pamela plays her part nicely and generates an appealing, singing tone, but again her father ends up carrying a bit more of the musical burden.  The Presto has ample energy and drive, and if perhaps a few times I wished that Pamela had a fuller tone, the duo play off each other well, as though they had known each other for a while or something, and deliver a nice overall version.

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Offline Todd

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Re: Op 47
« Reply #6 on: November 15, 2020, 06:53:47 AM »


Jascha Heifetz and Brooks Smith.  Heifetz rips into the Adagio, and Smith plays his part nicely, though as second fiddle.  With no repeat and a Heifetz tempo - fast - the duo zip through the opening movement with zest in the fast passages and indulgent vibrato and portamento from Heifetz in the slower passages.  Of course it's well played, especially the violin part, but it verges on the breathless at times.  The Andante is likewise taken very fast, and here the result is no bueno.  It just sounds rushed and devoid of much musical merit, as if it was a warm-up for a recital with an approach designed to garner applause for the speed, and the recording has Heifetz overwhelm the pianist.  The Presto is similarly focused on speed and execution and surface excitement.  In those areas, it excels.  As a fully satisfying musical experience, not so much.

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Offline Handelian

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Re: Op 47
« Reply #7 on: November 15, 2020, 07:38:56 AM »


Jascha Heifetz and Brooks Smith.  Heifetz rips into the Adagio, and Smith plays his part nicely, though as second fiddle.  With no repeat and a Heifetz tempo - fast - the duo zip through the opening movement with zest in the fast passages and indulgent vibrato and portamento from Heifetz in the slower passages.  Of course it's well played, especially the violin part, but it verges on the breathless at times.  The Andante is likewise taken very fast, and here the result is no bueno.  It just sounds rushed and devoid of much musical merit, as if it was a warm-up for a recital with an approach designed to garner applause for the speed, and the recording has Heifetz overwhelm the pianist.  The Presto is similarly focused on speed and execution and surface excitement.  In those areas, it excels.  As a fully satisfying musical experience, not so much.

Heifetz recorded the work better with Moiseiwitsch with whom he also recorded Brahms and Franck. The problem was Heifetz did not see the sonatas as Beethoven intended 'sonatas for piano and violin' and looked upon his pianists mere accompanists. He was better with more equal partners like Moiseiwitsch or Rubinstein.

This combination works better:



Or this one with Repin:



Or with Perlman:



« Last Edit: November 15, 2020, 07:45:11 AM by Handelian »

Offline aukhawk

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Re: Op 47
« Reply #8 on: November 15, 2020, 10:28:52 AM »
Jascha Heifetz and Brooks Smith.  Heifetz rips into the Adagio, and Smith plays his part nicely, though as second fiddle.  With no repeat and a Heifetz tempo - fast - the duo zip through the opening movement with zest in the fast passages and indulgent vibrato and portamento from Heifetz in the slower passages.  Of course it's well played, especially the violin part, but it verges on the breathless at times.  The Andante is likewise taken very fast, and here the result is no bueno.  It just sounds rushed and devoid of much musical merit, as if it was a warm-up for a recital with an approach designed to garner applause for the speed, and the recording has Heifetz overwhelm the pianist.  The Presto is similarly focused on speed and execution and surface excitement.  In those areas, it excels.  As a fully satisfying musical experience, not so much.

Time contraints?  What fits on a side of 78 rpm?

Offline Todd

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Re: Op 47
« Reply #9 on: November 15, 2020, 11:30:20 AM »
Time contraints?  What fits on a side of 78 rpm?


First, it's a stereo recording.  Second, some shellac era recordings do not suffer the same maladies.
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Offline Todd

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Re: Op 47
« Reply #10 on: November 16, 2020, 05:38:20 AM »


Anne-Sophie Mutter and Lambert Orkis.  Mutter tears into the opening before immediately pulling way back, and then Orkis enters somewhat tentatively, and then when the duo transitions to the Presto, the playing picks up speed, and then offers some of the widest, which is to say potentially exaggerated, dynamics around.  Mutter sets the pace here, and she not only likes huge dynamic contrasts, she also like huge tempo shifts.  As with Heifetz, there's never any doubt of the quality of the playing, but the mannerisms may not suit all tastes, though taste or no, there's no denying the high-voltage excitement generated in some passages.  After the lengthy 15' opener, the duo deliver an 18'+ Andante.  Mutter layers on the vibrato so thick and heavy that it tests even my easy-going nature as it pertains to heavy-duty interventionism.  One benefit of such interventionism is that variations often sound more variable, in a pleasing way, and such is the case here.  Sure, the duo uses big dollops of rubato, and the playing never really sounds light, but there are moments of drama and comparative playfulness, and some beauty.  The closing Presto has ample snap and drive, and wide ranging dynamics again, and makes for a solid closer to a good if perhaps too interventionist take. 
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Offline Todd

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Re: Op 47
« Reply #11 on: November 17, 2020, 05:47:15 AM »


Daishin Kashimoto and Konstatin Lifschitz.  Mr Kashimoto is one of three First Concert Masters for the Berliner Philharmoniker, so one needn't worry about chops from the violinist.  Mr Lifschitz is a fine soloist in his own right, so technically assured playing is, well, assured.  (Which of course is to be expected.)  The pair go for a lengthy 15'+ opener, and Kashimoto opens with a broad, rich, vibrato-laden open, and Lifschitz answers in kind.  The Presto is not the fastest around, but it moves along with ample speed in the faster sections, and the close microphones capture the nifty fingerwork of the violinist.  Lifschitz often seems to play with stark dynamics, either mezzo-piano or something just shy of forte, rather like in his sonata cycle, and it works well, especially in the faster sections.  The tempo selections in the slower sections are well chosen, too.  The Andante is also on the long side, coming in at just a hair over seventeen minutes, and the duo highlights the contrasts by playing the faster variations with no little pep and stretching out the slower ones, and slower passages more generally.  Kashimoto slices right through the piano playing at times, and he does so without sounding the least bit screechy.  The Presto is just ever so slightly on the broad side in terms of timing, but one doesn't notice with the vibrant rhythm and the wide ranging dynamics, which really help here.  This cycle as a whole doesn't really float my boat, but this work does, and it is every bit as good as I remember.
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Offline André

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Re: Op 47
« Reply #12 on: November 17, 2020, 06:51:31 AM »
Todd, will you report on the Gatto/Libeer version on Alpha? I’ve seen good comments.

Offline Holden

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Re: Op 47
« Reply #13 on: November 17, 2020, 11:06:25 AM »
I’m hoping you have both Grumiaux/Haskil and Francescatti/Casadesus on your list. I haven’t got any modern performances so maybe this thread will throw up some listening choices.
Cheers

Holden

Offline Todd

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Re: Op 47
« Reply #14 on: November 17, 2020, 12:36:17 PM »
Todd, will you report on the Gatto/Libeer version on Alpha? I’ve seen good comments.

This is not among the versions I currently own, so it is not included.


I’m hoping you have both Grumiaux/Haskil and Francescatti/Casadesus on your list. I haven’t got any modern performances so maybe this thread will throw up some listening choices.

These are both included.  Francescatti/Casadesus has been my reference for decades.
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Offline Todd

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Re: Op 47
« Reply #15 on: November 18, 2020, 05:37:09 AM »


From the depths of Colorado come Edward Dusinberre and David Korevaar.  Mr Dusinberre knows his Beethoven very well, of course, and he opens the Adagio sostenuto with perfectly judged and realized tempo, vibrato, and intonation.  Mr Korevaar knows a few things about Beethoven, too, and he starts with perfect weight and basically perfect articulation.  And then things get good.  The duo deliver a weighty, romantic, at times fiery reading, but one possessed of both supreme control and no need to push tempi too much.  It might remind the listener of Irnberger and Korstick in some ways, but it benefits from rather more refinement.  In the Andante, the pair adopt perfectly judged tempi throughout, and most importantly, they play with a simultaneously loose feeling and tightly executed back and forth with an almost conversational style.  Korevaar often emphasizes the melody in his playing, except when he doesn't, and Dusinberre moves back and forth between prominence and support while maintaining perfect poise.  The transitions between variations are especially nicely done without anything special seeming to happen, and the fourth variation is almost ridiculously sweet and light.  Korevaar launches the Presto with a big ol' forte chord, and Dusinberre joins him in a rendition that fairly prances about start to finish.  One of the best extant recordings, and it's contained on something of a problematic disc.  You see, when doing comps, it's often good to jump one version to the next, but like recordings from Arcadi Volodos and Jean Rodophe Kars, whenever this one starts, the playing mercilessly forces the hapless listener to spin the whole recording, because the Op 96 that follows is likewise one of best.  It's a shame the pair haven't recorded all ten.
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Offline Florestan

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Re: Op 47
« Reply #16 on: November 18, 2020, 07:16:14 AM »


From the depths of Colorado come Edward Dusinberre and David Korevaar.  Mr Dusinberre knows his Beethoven very well, of course, and he opens the Adagio sostenuto with perfectly judged and realized tempo, vibrato, and intonation.  Mr Korevaar knows a few things about Beethoven, too, and he starts with perfect weight and basically perfect articulation.  And then things get good.  The duo deliver a weighty, romantic, at times fiery reading, but one possessed of both supreme control and no need to push tempi too much.  It might remind the listener of Irnberger and Korstick in some ways, but it benefits from rather more refinement.  In the Andante, the pair adopt perfectly judged tempi throughout, and most importantly, they play with a simultaneously loose feeling and tightly executed back and forth with an almost conversational style.  Korevaar often emphasizes the melody in his playing, except when he doesn't, and Dusinberre moves back and forth between prominence and support while maintaining perfect poise.  The transitions between variations are especially nicely done without anything special seeming to happen, and the fourth variation is almost ridiculously sweet and light.  Korevaar launches the Presto with a big ol' forte chord, and Dusinberre joins him in a rendition that fairly prances about start to finish.  One of the best extant recordings, and it's contained on something of a problematic disc.  You see, when doing comps, it's often good to jump one version to the next, but like recordings from Arcadi Volodos and Jean Rodophe Kars, whenever this one starts, the playing mercilessly forces the hapless listener to spin the whole recording, because the Op 96 that follows is likewise one of best.  It's a shame the pair haven't recorded all ten.

Tolstoyan cover art too! Do you have any information on it?
“Especially as far as I am concerned, romanticism is not the bloodless intellectual commitment to a program, but the expression of my most profound mind and soul.” --- Sergei Bortkiewicz (1877-1952)

Offline Todd

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Re: Op 47
« Reply #17 on: November 19, 2020, 05:38:45 AM »
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Offline Todd

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Re: Op 47
« Reply #18 on: November 19, 2020, 05:39:15 AM »


Chloë Hanslip and Danny Driver.  Hanslip enters with a controlled, refined tone and Driver joins her doing the same.  As they rev up the playing in the Presto, some of the playing becomes a bit rougher, which befits the music.  The duo keep things peppy, but this is not a storming the heavens take, and as recorded, the apparent dynamic contrasts are not especially wide.  The Andante sounds nicely varied, and the duo fare better in the gentler, more beautiful, more playful music, and in places where Hanslip's playing soars into the highest registers.  The concluding Presto is nicely played, peppy, but also often elegant and smooth.  Overall, a pleasant version with some moments of musical sparkle.
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Offline Florestan

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“Especially as far as I am concerned, romanticism is not the bloodless intellectual commitment to a program, but the expression of my most profound mind and soul.” --- Sergei Bortkiewicz (1877-1952)