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Gemini - Beethoven: Violin Sonatas, No 5, 7, 9, 10 / Menuhin


Release Date: 04/24/2007 
Label:  Emi Classics   Catalog #: 81756   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Jeremy MenuhinYehudi Menuhin
Number of Discs: 2 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 59 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews



BEETHOVEN Violin Sonatas: No. 5, “Spring”; No. 9, “Kreutzer”; No. 7; No. 10 Yehudi Menuhin (vn); Jeremy Menuhin (pn) EMI 81756 (2 CDs: 118:30)


Yehudi Menuhin began recording Beethoven’s Violin Sonatas in the late 1920s (No. 1 with Giesen) and continued through the 1930s (probably No. 3 and No. 7, No. 8—Allegro vivace only, No. 9 and No. 10 with his sister, Hephzibah); the 1940s (No. 10 Read more with Hephzibah); the 1950s (all sonatas with Kentner, No. 9 with Baller, Hephzibah, and yet another reading with Kentner); the 1960s (No. 10 twice with Hephzibah and once with Gould); the 1970s (all sonatas with Kempff); and finally, in 1985, 1986, and 1988, Sonatas No. 5, No. 6, No. 7, No. 8, No. 9, and No. 10 with his son, Jeremy. Specifically, the first two of the sonatas on EMI’s re-release come from October 30 and 31, 1985, and the last two, from July 7 and 8, 1986, all at the Abbey Road Studio in London. At that time, Menuhin had either just approached or just passed the age of 70; and since it would be the last time he would record this repertoire, the issue turned out to represent his last thoughts on it. It also turned out to be the only time he would record the sonatas digitally, and his tone glows in the recorded sound with a warmth and vibrancy that may recall an earlier time in his life, even if his playing in general sounds more autumnal than electrifying. Menuhin suffered during this period, as he had before, from instabilities in his right arm, perhaps most noticeable as he approached the lower end of the bow. The first movement of the “Spring” Sonata doesn’t reveal much if any at all of that instability until the figuration just before the movement’s end. Jeremy doesn’t play deferentially, but as a true sonata partner (although David K. Nelson, reviewing the Sixth and Eighth Sonatas in 14:1, sensed that he backed off somewhat) and the engineers have miked the duo accordingly. In accompanying, as at the beginning of the slow movement, Yehudi plays with chaste humility, but when he takes the melody, it’s clear just how deeply this music had penetrated his consciousness. It’s the repertoire, after all, that he had presumably studied with Adolf Busch. The Menuhins’ Scherzo may lack the dynamism, especially in the Trio, of Szigeti’s celebrated version, but it’s energetic and cavorts as it should through the movement’s intricate rhythmic interchanges. In the finale, Yehudi seems for the first time to struggle to project the soaring melodic arches and encounters difficulty in the passagework, but generally it’s a worthy conclusion to a worthy reading. Yehudi’s problems reveal themselves almost at once in the double stops at the beginning of the “Kreutzer” Sonata. In the Presto, he adopts a rather slow tempo, but his chords don’t slash and some of his bariolage-like bowings sound simply tangled. Yet he generates visceral excitement in the first movement and speaks authoritatively in the slow one, even through his sometimes halting speech. The same is true of the finale, in which his stiffness, however, threatens at times almost to obliterate his voice.


Sonata No. 7 and Sonata No. 10 come from sessions almost a year later, but in the opening of the Seventh Sonata, Menuhin seemed more confident and his bow arm, more supple. He maintains his poise throughout the first movement and enters upon the second with the kind of rapt communication with his pianist son and with the penetrating insight he displayed a year earlier in the slow movement of the “Spring” Sonata. Like the finale, the Scherzo’s wound tightly; both movements strut confidently, and the duo brings the Sonata to an end in a rush of adrenaline. By comparison, their reading of the final Sonata begins in a majestic, meditative calm. Yehudi strains once again in the slow movement, but the Scherzo is appropriately gnomic and the finale is expressive, though rough-hewn.


Mortimer Frank reviewed the initial release of the Fifth and Ninth Sonatas in 10:3, where he arrived at conclusions similar to mine and compared the performance unfavorably to the earlier set with Kempff mentioned above. Frank ended up suggesting that “as a permanent document, this disc is not likely to have wide appeal.” David K. Nelson, reviewing the Sixth and Eighth Sonatas from the set in 14: 1, seemed mixed in his assessment. Should Menuhin, then, have made these recordings? Should they be re-released? Perhaps Frank’s observation in 10:3 that “surely the 70-year-old Yehudi is still a great artist” holds the key. And surely his fans will want to hear these qualifiedly robust collaborations with Jeremy. Anyone who followed his career closely would be familiar with the problems his mechanism developed, so evidences of them here will come as no surprise. The resonant digital recording of Menuhin’s still engaging sound and manner and the underlying nobility (and excitement) of his conceptions tip the scales, at least for me, although others may disagree. Recommended, therefore, with very strong caveats. Others should go to his many earlier recordings, if they haven’t already done so. But I’d want these too.


FANFARE: Robert Maxham
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Works on This Recording

1.
Sonata for Violin and Piano no 5 in F major, Op. 24 "Spring" by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Jeremy Menuhin (Piano), Yehudi Menuhin (Violin)
Period: Classical 
Written: 1800-1801; Vienna, Austria 
Venue:  EMI Abbey Road Studio no 1, London, Engl 
Length: 25 Minutes 8 Secs. 
Notes: EMI Abbey Road Studio no 1, London, England (10/30/1985 - 10/31/1985) 
2.
Sonata for Violin and Piano no 7 in C minor, Op. 30 no 2 by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Jeremy Menuhin (Piano), Yehudi Menuhin (Violin)
Period: Classical 
Written: 1801-1802; Vienna, Austria 
Venue:  EMI Abbey Road Studio no 1, London, Engl 
Length: 28 Minutes 17 Secs. 
Notes: EMI Abbey Road Studio no 1, London, England (07/07/1986 - 07/08/1986) 
3.
Sonata for Violin and Piano no 9 in A major, Op. 47 "Kreutzer" by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Jeremy Menuhin (Piano), Yehudi Menuhin (Violin)
Period: Classical 
Written: 1802-1803; Vienna, Austria 
Venue:  EMI Abbey Road Studio no 1, London, Engl 
Length: 35 Minutes 53 Secs. 
Notes: EMI Abbey Road Studio no 1, London, England (10/30/1985 - 10/31/1985) 
4.
Sonata for Violin and Piano no 10 in G major, Op. 96 by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Jeremy Menuhin (Piano), Yehudi Menuhin (Violin)
Period: Classical 
Written: 1812; Vienna, Austria 
Venue:  EMI Abbey Road Studio no 1, London, Engl 
Length: 29 Minutes 1 Secs. 
Notes: EMI Abbey Road Studio no 1, London, England (07/07/1986 - 07/08/1986) 

Sound Samples

Violin Sonata No. 5 in F 'Spring' Op. 24: I. Allegro
Violin Sonata No. 5 in F 'Spring' Op. 24: II. Adagio molto espressivo
Violin Sonata No. 5 in F 'Spring' Op. 24: III. Schezo (Allegro molto)
Violin Sonata No. 5 in F 'Spring' Op. 24: IV. Rondo (Allegro ma non troppo)
Violin Sonata No. 9 in A 'Kreutzer' Op. 47: I. Adagio sostenuto - Presto
Violin Sonata No. 9 in A 'Kreutzer' Op. 47: II. Andante con variazioni 1-4
Violin Sonata No. 9 in A 'Kreutzer' Op. 47: III. Finale (Presto)
Violin Sonata No. 7 in C minor Op. 30 No. 2: I. Allegro con brio
Violin Sonata No. 7 in C minor Op. 30 No. 2: II. Adagio cantabile
Violin Sonata No. 7 in C minor Op. 30 No. 2: III. Scherzo & Trio (Allegro)
Violin Sonata No. 7 in C minor Op. 30 No. 2: IV. Finale (Allegro)
Violin Sonata No. 10 in G Op. 96: I. Allegro moderato
Violin Sonata No. 10 in G Op. 96: II. Adagio espressivo
Violin Sonata No. 10 in G Op. 96: III. Scherzo (Allegro ) & Trio
Violin Sonata No. 10 in G Op. 96: IV. Poco allegretto

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