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Beethoven Explored, Vol. 5

Beethoven / Skaerved / Shorr
Release Date: 09/24/2013 
Label:  Metier   Catalog #: 2007   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Andreas RombergLudwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Aaron ShorrPeter Sheppard Skaerved
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 10 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

BEETHOVEN Violin Sonatas: No. 1 in D; No. 2 in A; No. 3 in Eb. A. ROMBERG Violin Sonata in Bb, op. 9/2, “Schottische” Peter Sheppard Skærved (vn); Aaron Shorr (pn) MÉTIER 2007 (70:10)

Métier’s booklet describes the fifth volume of violinist Peter Sheppard Skærved and pianist Aaron Shorr’s series, Beethoven Explored as Read more “reappraising the Violin/Piano Sonatas in their musical and cultural context.” Presumably the voluminous detailed program notes cover the cultural context (Skærved even itemizes furnishings of Ralph Holmes’s rooms when he—Skærved—first heard the 1734 Habaneck Stradivari upon which Holmes played and upon which Skærved has recorded this program). Following a recent custom, the program lists only Beethoven’s opus numbers, not the sonatas’ chronological numbering within the set (this runs counter to the also recent practice of assigning composers’ works numbers the composers themselves eschewed: Bartók’s Violin Concerto No. 2, Ravel’s Violin Sonata No. 2, and— horresco referens —Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto No. 2 (when will we see Beethoven’s “Violin Concerto No. 2?”). Might this practice affect a “musicologically correct” parallel with the frequent “politically correct” shifting of descriptions for social phenomena?

If any of this seems academic or even pedantic, the performances themselves should allay any fears that they’ve been marred by mannerism. That’s true in the First Sonata, with its first movement delivered crisply and with gusto, the variations remaining cheerful almost throughout, and the Rondo sunny. These sonatas could be played as though they belonged to a later period in the composer’s output; but although they may give hints of things to come, Skærved (and Shorr, too, who seems to share the violinist’s view of these works’ historical place) keeps them from foreshadowing too explicitly—and anachronistically—the course of Beethoven’s developments over the next few years. Yet he hardly refrains from focusing on detail or individual nuance—as in the Second Sonata’s first movement, which nevertheless trips along lightly, its progress never impeded by cluttering detail. (As in the opening movement of the Second Sonata, Skærved doesn’t intrude his accompanimental figures into Shorr’s musical argument.) The second movement, marked Andante più tosto allegretto , never assaults the listener in Skærved’s reading with pounding sforzandos, although those who cherish performances like those of Alina Ibragimova and Cédric Tiberghien may miss them. In the Finale, violinist and pianist brighten passages with streaks of quicksilver. In the Third Sonata, that brilliance returns, and the strenuous accentuation at cadential points hardly dispels it, although the duo does allow darker clouds to roll in over the movement’s middle section. Skærved’s tone thickens in the second movement, against a flickering accompaniment by Shorr; but despite his tonal weight, passages off the beat retain a cocky liveliness. Skærved and Shorr exchange ideas exuberantly and light-heartedly in the Finale.

The duo adds to Beethoven’s first three sonatas a work by his fellow string-quartet player and colleague in the electoral court orchestra in Bonn, Andreas Romberg, which the notes identify as based upon Scottish tunes in its second and third movements ( There’s cauld kail in Aberdeen and Down the burn, and thro’ the mead ). But the first strain of a familiar Celtic tune ( Planxty Fanny Power or Poer , composed by Turlough O’Carolan, the blind Irish harper sometimes said to have played duets with Antonio Vivaldi) appears repeatedly in the first movement, although there’s no reference to it in the movement title—the titles of the later movements mention the Scottish songs—and isn’t mentioned in Métier’s notes. Romberg imports the tune, but doesn’t develop it or embellish it. Occasionally in the movement, a surprising progression of chords wakes the listener from what should be a pleasant reverie. The Scottish tunes assume greater prominence in the second and third movements, perhaps justifying their inclusion in the titles. On the whole, Romberg’s work seems ingratiating, suitable for the drawing room yet with sufficient musical interest to hold its own in the company of Beethoven’s first three sonatas, to which it bears stylistic affinities that many will perceive as unmistakable.

The release’s clear and clean recorded sound (miked at a respectful distance) and evincing a cheerful musical outlook that should make these works (Romberg’s and Beethoven’s alike) appeal especially to those who favor a sunny and transparent approach to Beethoven’s early works. Strongly recommended to these listeners but to others as well, the performances themselves should communicate more vividly than do the detailed notes.

FANFARE: Robert Maxham
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Works on This Recording

Sonata for piano & violin in B flat major ("Schottische"), Op. 9/2 by Andreas Romberg
Performer:  Aaron Shorr (Piano), Peter Sheppard Skaerved (Violin)
Period: Classical 
Venue:  St. John's, Smith Square, London 
Length: 14 Minutes 58 Secs. 
Sonata for Violin and Piano no 1 in D major, Op. 12 no 1 by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Aaron Shorr (Piano), Peter Sheppard Skaerved (Violin)
Period: Classical 
Written: 1797-1798; Vienna, Austria 
Venue:  St. John's, Smith Square, London 
Length: 19 Minutes 8 Secs. 
Sonata for Violin and Piano no 2 in A major, Op. 12 No. 2 by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Aaron Shorr (Piano), Peter Sheppard Skaerved (Violin)
Period: Classical 
Written: 1797-1798; Vienna, Austria 
Venue:  St. John's, Smith Square, London 
Length: 16 Minutes 17 Secs. 
Sonata for Violin and Piano no 3 in E flat major, Op. 12 no 3 by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Peter Sheppard Skaerved (Violin), Aaron Shorr (Piano)
Period: Classical 
Written: 1797-1798; Vienna, Austria 
Venue:  St. John's, Smith Square, London 
Length: 19 Minutes 2 Secs. 

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