The Strad Issue: August 2016
Description: A Beethoven violin sonata cycle on period instruments continues
Musicians: Susanna Ogata (violin) Ian Watson (fortepiano)
Composer: Beethoven
Catalogue number: CORO COR 16143

The second volume of Susanna Ogata and Ian Watson’s cycle of Beethoven’s violin sonatas admirably sustains the polished musicianship of the first. Their trim, alert reading of op.24 arguably provides their most effective and expansive vehicle yet, the tender slow movement movingly delivered, the brief scherzo’s rhythmic displacements dispatched with wit, and the outer movements realised with a free-flowing cantabile. It combines an appropriate sense of idiom with an abundance of vitality, sensitivity and insight, and furnishes Beethoven’s textures with a clarity rarely achieved.

Much of this clarity is owing to the period instruments employed – a violin by Joseph Klotz (1772) and a Paul McNulty copy of an 1805 fortepiano by Anton Walter; and they blend as if by magic, notably in the expressive Adagio of op.96, where, as in its predecessor, phrasing is sensitively shaped. Occasionally, however, when sudden bursts of emotion or energy contrast vividly with the sonata’s overall tranquil mood, Watson’s attack seems too percussive and loud in the balance: particularly evident in some of the pastoral finale’s inventive variations, this may be the result of natural exuberance, a heavy touch or miking too close to the fortepiano. This criticism apart, the recording combines immediacy with an attractive ambient warmth.

Robin Stowell