Beethoven Violin Sonatas No. 1,5,9 – Tenenbaum and Kapp

Beethoven

Violin Sonatas No.1, 5 and 9

Mela Tenenbaum, violin
Richard Kapp, piano

ESS.A.Y. CD1083

by Derek Lim

This disc, featuring the first, fifth and ninth violin sonatas by Beethoven, enters a crowded market of strong contenders. Unfortunately I think that it will have to serve more as an artist’s calling card than pose any true rivalry to the standard interpretations.

Beethoven wrote his music with his soloists on equal footing even in the first sonata, so it was disappointing to hear the pianist being so reticent, though the balance itself doesn’t favour either. A relative spontaneity is the hallmark of all three performances here, but this has been achieved with greater drama before. A keener sense of articulation, more polish and attention to intonation would have served the music better, as well as a greater sense of urgency the performances often sounded too relaxed and underpowered (especially in the Spring) for my liking and phrasing.

The Kreutzer is probably the best performed of the three, with some real tension in the first and last movements and excellent characterization in the theme and variations. Still, it doesn’t measure up to the best recordings out there, which manage to do a better job of bringing out the concertante element of the work.

If you want to get a disc of the fifth and ninth sonatas, the Perlman and Ashkenazy disc available on Decca Legends is excellent and much better than the performances here.

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