The Strad Issue: January 2007
Musicians: Catherine Leonard (violin) Hugh Tinney (piano)
Composer: Beethoven, Kreisler

Beethoven was probably simply following convention when he designated his sonatas as ‘for piano and violin’, though the two Irish players here have taken that description as the focal point for their approach to the ‘Spring’ Sonata, with the violin often simply elaborating the thematic material given to the keyboard. That works well in the opening movement with the violin dancing around the less capricious piano part, while the slow movement is viewed as a dialogue and with the piano as the dominant voice, even in those moments when it has less to say. Similarly the violin only interjects and punctuates a bright and breezy piano Scherzo, greater equality only appearing when we reach the finale.

That this is an unusual but very considered view from the duo becomes apparent in the forceful role that Catherine Leonard brings to the opening movement of the ‘Kreutzer’. There is here a welcome atmosphere of spontaneity, though at times it finds Hugh Tinney driving the tempo with undue urgency, putting Leonard’s clarity of articulation under pressure and making the ensemble less than perfect. The unfussy phrasing in the following Andante and variations is pleasing, while the brio brought to the finale is certainly high on adrenalin. Tinney’s playing is agile throughout, and Leonard’s technique is admirable with reliable intonation.

In a catalogue already vastly oversubscribed with fine recordings, I wish these players had placed their caring musicianship in a less crowded field, though the two encores that conclude the disc are very welcome. Sound quality is satisfying.