Notes and Editorial Reviews
Violin Sonata No. 9,
Violin Sonata in c?,
Davide Amodio (vn); Edoardo Torbianelli (pn) (period instruments)
PHÆDRA 292021 (74:01)
Violinist Davide Amodio relates in the notes his quest to recapture some of the improvisatory freedom that characterized the
first performance of Ludwig van Beethoven’s Ninth Violin Sonata (by Beethoven and initial dedicatee George Bridgetower, to whom Beethoven referred as “Brischdauer”), and in that endeavor he strung his 1793 Pique violin with gut (the G string, gut hand-wound with silver thread), had his violin set up with a bridge made after an 18th-century prototype, and chose to play with Edoardo Torbianelli performing on an 1823 Viennese piano. Phædra’s engineers, coming close to the violinist, reveal his instrument producing a large, smoothly rounded, relatively modern sound, at least compared with Torbianelli’s piano. But the cadenza he inserts close to the beginning sets the stage not only for other sounds but also for a generally explosive performance of the first movement as a whole. Amodio is downright volcanic, for example, in what I’ve often described as the Janissary theme (Zino Francescatti produced the energy of an entire band from these materials), and Torbianelli, if he doesn’t quite match his partner’s heat in this passage, does so for the most part throughout the movement. In any case, no fussiness in either articulation or tone production emerges, and the embellishments that the performers add invariably enhance rather than interrupt the forward motion. The duo plays the slow movement’s theme warmly, but Torbianelli introduces the kind of excitement he created in the first movement into the first variation, in which the violin merely accompanies, mostly with simple repeated notes. Amodio doesn’t take the second variation at breakneck speed, as did Jascha Heifetz, for example, but he manages to generate reasonable voltage, perhaps due to his tone’s consistently vibrant quality. The same timbral liveliness, which I’d call “organic” if I could mean something intelligible by it, appears in the last variation—raised to an even higher level that knits phrases in an especially novel way. If Amodio’s tempo in the finale isn’t rapid, he so energizes the passagework tonally that its sheer force fully compensates.
The duo’s program includes two other sonatas, one by the eventual dedicatee of the Beethoven’s work, Rudophe Kreutzer (who didn’t play it) and the other by Beethoven’s friend and student Ferdinand Ries, who related that the Master built the sonata in part from a finale discarded from his Sixth Sonata. Kreutzer’s sonata, described as a
Sonate avec l’accompagnement d’un violon
, hardly seems to be what its title suggests, and if it doesn’t recall the relatively virtuosic writing for violin in the composer’s concertos, it still justifies the first movement’s designation as an Allegro Brillante. Amodio coaxes a reedy tone from the lower registers of his instrument, a sound consistently warm and pliable, and neither muted nor dull. The slow movement, a Romance, does allow Torbianelli to indulge in some flights of pianistic fancy, sensitive ones to boot, and the duo leads without pause into the concluding movement, full, in this reading, of strutting wit fusing joviality with elegance. Here, Amodio and Torbianelli re-create a world far removed from Beethoven’s lightning and thunder, though it opens into occasional passages of dramatic urgency.
The opening passages of Ries’s sonata suggest greater gravitas, and although the violin part hardly sounds recessive, the piano part with which it holds conversation seems dominant, often rumbling in Torbianelli’s reading with nearly Beethovenian menace in the lower registers. A brief though deeply affecting (at least in this performance), songlike Adagio leads to a finale that, if listeners feel it lacks the brilliance of Beethoven’s or the charm of Kreutzer’s, still manages to make a warmhearted point in the duo’s performance.
Those who collect versions of Beethoven’s Ninth Sonata won’t want to miss this one. Amodio mentions in his notes some lamentable tendencies of readings of musical scripture to sound similar, as though the interpreters had been merely following orders, presumably from the composer as understood by then-current arbiters of taste. This one’s different, and it should appeal, with its accompanying works, to a wider audience than simply that of historians or aficionados of period instruments. Urgently recommended, then, across the board.
FANFARE: Robert Maxham
Works on This Recording
Sonata for violin & piano by Rodolphe Kreutzer
Edoardo Torbianelli (Piano),
Davide Amodio (Violin)
Venue: Fondazione Giorgio Cini, Venezia
Length: 19 Minutes 12 Secs.
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