Notes and Editorial Reviews
Though the current CD catalogue lists no less than four alternative versions of Beethoven's early-ish (1797) Serenade Trio for strings, Op. 8, as his Notturno for viola and piano, OD. 42, it is conspicuous by its absence. So hats off to these two artists for coming to its rescue—and so aptly coupling it with another work not originally designed for the instrument once known as the Cinderella of the strings.
The booklet tells us that this arrangement of the trio was not authorized by the irate Beethoven himself who subsequently made ''improvements'' but had neither ''the time or patience'' to make a new transcription himself. If he had, surely he would not have given the piano (even though his own instrument) quite so
disproportionate a share of the limelight? I can't recall ever hearing the work in this form before (though I'm sure I must have done during my 20 or more years of attending London's Wigmore Hall). And listening to this performance, with a copy of the original Op. 8 in my hand, I had the impression that it was a piano work with viola obbligato. Let me say at once that it would have been quite wrong for Roger Vignoles not to have relished his opportunities to the full, as he does with such spirit. He is far too sensitively discerning an artist to 'call the tune' unless unmistakably called upon to do so. But in the Allegretto alla Polacca (the Serenade's immediate 'bestseller') the anonymous arranger does at last bring the viola out if its shell. And here I thought Nobuko Imai could have thrown her own cap to the winds with a little more gusto.
It is Schubert's so much more familiar Arpeggione Sonata that enables us to enjoy Imai's warmly coaxing (even if not outsize) tone to the full, likewise her intimately ingratiating phrasing. She allows every note to tell a very human tale without resorting to those licenses which, though breathtaking from super-stars like Rostropovich and Britten just once, inevitably begin to sound mannered after repeated hearings. Bearing in mind the viola's gentle, low-lying voice, I did just wonder a few times (in the first movement, in particular) if the piano had been too forwardly placed. But the actual quality of the sound from Chandos could not be more true to life.
-- Joan Chissell, Gramophone [4/1990]
Works on This Recording
Notturno for Viola and Piano in D major, Op. 42 by Ludwig van Beethoven
Roger Vignoles (Piano),
Nobuko Imai (Viola)
Written: 1803; Vienna, Austria
Notes: This work is an unauthorized arrangement of Beethoven's "Serenade for String Trio, Op 8"
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