A fine demonstration of duo playing at its peak

Frank Peter Zimmermann: Beethoven

The Strad Issue: July 2021

Description: A fine demonstration of duo playing at its peak

Musicians: Frank Peter Zimmermann (violin) Martin Helmchen (piano)

Works: Beethoven: Violin sonatas: no.5 in F major op.24 ‘Spring’, no.6 in A major op.30 no.1, no.7 in C minor op.30 no.2

Catalogue number: BIS 2527 (SACD)

Zimmermann and Helmchen open their second volume of Beethoven’s sonatas with the F major ‘Spring’. Zimmermann plays the opening melody with a silky tone, immediately mirrored by Helmchen at the outset, after which they become more forthright, with vibrant fortissimos and powerful accents. The Adagio is a gentle song. The finale is at once expansive and propulsive, good-natured at the opening and fiery later, with biting staccatos and punched vibrato accents, all aided by the close miking and resonant acoustic. There are more powerful dynamic contrasts in the A major Sonata, with the sunny main themes of the first movement punctuated by robust, attention-grabbing outbursts. After the graceful and elegant Adagio, the variations of the last movement are full of ebullience, lyricism and occasional mystery.

In the C minor Sonata they give a big-boned account of the Allegro con brio, rich and grand, its staccato dotted rhythms firmly clipped, its dynamic peaks exuberant. Zimmermann plays the Adagio with a velvety rich sound, intimate and warm. This movement is a particular joy, a demonstration of duo playing at its peak. The Scherzo trips happily along, and they unleash some raw power into the Finale, their playing vibrant and thrilling.