Notes and Editorial Reviews
Violin Sonatas Nos. 1–10
Daishin Kashimoto (vn); Konstantin Lifschitz (pn)
WARNER 2564634929 (4 CDs: 259:46)
After my rave review of the Beethoven violin sonatas by Kristóf Baráti and Klára Würtz in 36:4, I didn’t expect I’d ever hear another set of the sonatas as satisfying as theirs, let alone another one so soon. Yet here it is, entirely different from that of Baráti and Würtz, but in its own way just as thrilling. Actually, I’m about to hedge on that a bit
in a moment, but first let me introduce Daishin Kashimoto, who is new to me and practically new to the pages of
. In 34:5, James Altena reviewed a performance of Schumann’s Piano Quintet in which Kashimoto played second violin.
Born in London, Kashimoto is Japanese, and began studying violin in Japan at the age of three. By the time he was seven, he’d been accepted by the pre-college division of Juilliard as its youngest student. He then continued his studies in Germany with Zakhar Bron and Rainer Kussmaul. Since then he has appeared worldwide in concert with many of the world’s leading conductors and orchestras, and in collaboration with many famous artists. In 2009, he was appointed concertmaster of the Berlin Philharmonic, a post he still currently holds. Kashimoto’s bio states that in 1999 he signed a recording contract with Sony and made a recording for that label of the Brahms Violin Concerto with Myung-Whun Chung and the Dresden Staatskapelle. While ArkivMusic doesn’t list it, Amazon does, but only as an import item. It doesn’t appear that Kashimoto has done much for Sony since then, and other than this new Warner Classics release, his discography is very slim.
Konstantin Lifschitz needs no introduction, as he is not new to
. He has been well received, including by yours truly, in a wide range of repertoire from Bach and Mozart to Rachmaninoff, Scriabin, and Ravel.
Turning now to the performances of the Beethoven sonatas at hand, let me say that if I were inclined to picking nits, there are nits to be picked. Chief among them are tempos which are consistently and in almost every movement of every sonata, whether
, to the slow side of today’s norms. On top of that, Kashimoto and Lifschitz engage in an annoying habit of reading fermatas as if they were infinity symbols. There is some debate, of course, over whether a fermata in Beethoven’s day indicated a discretionary hold for as long as the player wished to sustain it, or if there was an accepted convention that dictated holding the note or rest for exactly double the duration of its original value. But Kashimoto and Lifschitz’s fermatas are really quite extreme. One other thing too: When Kashimoto’s bow gets going fast—at least “fast” as defined by these performances—there’s a bit of a rough edge to his tone, though it never turns grating.
Despite these criticisms, I find myself really liking these accounts of the sonatas. They’re played in a very Romantic manner and with a great deal of emotional expression. In a way, I suppose, they offer a foil to Baráti and Würtz’s readings, which are Classically poised, more refined in tone, taken at fairly brisk tempos, and focused heavily on the rhythmic interplay and counterpoint between the instruments.
Listening to Kashimoto and Lifschitz, who, in their own way, make an excellent duo, I was most reminded of the vintage Sony recordings by Isaac Stern and Eugene Istomin, first released in 1985, but not all made at the same time. If you like that muscular, incisive, and Romantically-styled approach in Beethoven, you’re sure to like Kashimoto and Lifschitz. In contrast, Baráti and Würtz are cooler, softer, and less assertive, but theirs are more polished and subtly sophisticated performances.
As I said earlier, I like these readings, despite the caveats noted above, and I intend to make room for them on my shelf right next to about a half-dozen others, among which is the classic David Oistrakh and Lev Oborin set on Philips.
Kashimoto and Lifschitz take every single indicated repeat, and something I find especially commendable is the layout of this set which manages to present the sonatas in numerical order over the four discs, unlike some other sets which give you the sonatas in weird sequences, like 8, 5, and 9 on one disc, and 10, 6, and 7 on another, compliments of Deutsche Grammophon for Augustin Dumay and Maria João Pires.
If you can forgive the slowish tempos and the interminable fermatas, Kashimoto and Lifschitz have much to offer in these performances, and I therefore welcome this set and recommend it to all lovers of Beethoven’s violin sonatas.
FANFARE: Jerry Dubins
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