A new ‘Kreutzer’ Sonata transcription is the star of this Beethoven programme

Nemanja Radulović: Beethoven

The Strad Issue: January 2024

Description: A new ‘Kreutzer’ Sonata transcription is the star of this Beethoven programme

Musicians: Nemanja Radulović (violin) Double Sens

Works: Beethoven: Violin Concerto; Violin Sonata no.9 ‘Kreutzer’

Catalogue number: WARNER CLASSICS 505419774339

You can count on Nemanja Radulović to bring a showman-like self-penned arrangement to a core repertoire programme, and for his play-directed Beethoven that has meant following the Violin Concerto – featuring the Kreisler cadenzas, perhaps surprisingly for this innovator – with his reimagining of the ‘Kreutzer’ Sonata for string ensemble.

Performing the concerto in its original scoring has necessitated a first-ever expansion of Radulović’s Franco-Serbian strings ensemble Double Sens, but its players sound as impeccable as ever. The Larghetto is especially successful: evoking luxurious tranquillity, with Radulović silkily floating his lines over an equally ardent-sounding ensemble. But while their springing finale also charms, Radulović’s liberal first-movement rubato makes its episodic structure overly bitty, and he himself seems slightly off-mic against the warmly immediate ensemble sound.

The ‘Kreutzer’, though, is an unequivocal success. Placing Radulović first among nimbly virtuosic equals, this dishes out a veritable feast of contrasting colours, textures and dynamics, one that far exceeds the remit of a simple transcription; its highlights include the first movement’s injections of Eastern European folk swing, the frequent spotlights on ensemble players and the final exuberant canter to the finish.