Two master musicians set off on a Beethoven journey of great promise

Antje Weithaas: Beethoven


The Strad Issue: August 2023

Description: Two master musicians set off on a Beethoven journey of great promise

Musicians: Antje Weithaas (violin) Dénes Várjon (piano)

Works: Beethoven: Violin Sonatas: A major op.12 no.2, A minor op.23, A major op.47 ‘Kreutzer’

Catalogue number: AVI MUSIC 8553512

This first offering in a new recorded cycle of Beethoven’s violin sonatas includes three pieces in A that could hardly be more different – there is, of course, a fourth one still to come: I had never realised how often Beethoven used this key in his music for strings! – and forcibly show Beethoven’s progress from the early sonatas ‘for piano and violin’ to a full-blown, outgoing showpiece that is more concerto than sonata.

Closely recorded in a warm ambience, these are performances that benefit from the close rapport between Antje Weithaas, a much sought-after Berlin-based soloist and pedagogue, and her eloquent piano partner, Dénes Várjon.

The two bring bags of temperament to a trio of highly strung performances. Beethovenian passion is much to the fore with biting accents from Weithaas, whose vibrato is carefully gauged in music that, while striving to break its moulds, still belongs to the Classical period. Both halves are repeated in the A minor Sonata’s opening movement, giving it additional weight; indeed, Weithaas and Várjon make a forceful case for a piece that has always languished in the shadow of its companion, the ‘Spring’ Sonata. The lighter hue of op.12 no.2 prompts many delicious touches, the modulation at the start of the development bringing a smile to one’s face. Very occasionally, Várjon indulges in some idiomatic left-hand-before-right desynchronisation, of which I would have welcomed a little more. A monumentally virtuosic reading of the ‘Kreutzer’ leaves one wishing for the prompt continuation of this most rewarding sonata cycle.