The new duo partnership formed last year between two long-established musicians is currently touring the UK presenting an on-going Beethoven violin sonata cycle to coincide with this series of recordings. That feel of recently working through each score does have the benefit of a fresh approach, though at times details are pointed as if major discoveries.
Peter Cropper’s approach to all four sonatas on this second volume (the first was reviewed in July) is one of discernment. For example, his uncommonly gentle approach to the early A major Sonata leaves the thrust of the work in the piano part, with the violin happily commenting on the thematic material as the work unfolds. Yet I feel this restraint and chastity goes too far and misses the warmth inherent in the music.
Without exception the slow movements are beautifully handled. Indeed I cannot recall a more serene Adagio molto espressivo than in this genial approach to the ‘Spring’ Sonata, or a more gracious Tempo di minuetto in the G major work of op.30.
Tempos throughout the disc are generally relaxed, though there are fast passages where Cropper’s articulation leaves the music sounding breathless, a problem that mars the finale of the G major Sonata. There are niggling intonation doubts in passages that have wide intervals.
It is good to have the violin rather set back in the acoustic, even if in leaving the piano as the dominant instrument the composer’s little accentuation marks often stand out with undue emphasis.
In such an overcrowded field I always return to the effortless lyricism of Suk–Panenka (Supraphon), or the warmly expressive Oistrakh–Oborin (Philips) with renewed admiration.