Thursday, March 14, 2013

Beethoven: Violin Sonatas - Lively and expressive

Beethoven: The Violin Sonatas
Barbara Govatos, violin; Marcantonio Barone, piano
4 CD Box Cet

Barbara Govatos and Marcantonio Barone have been performing as a duo for over a decade, which makes their traversal of Beethoven's ten violin sonatas so  enjoyable. There's an easy give-and-take between these performers that turn the music into a lively conversation between old friends.

Both Govatos and Barone play with precision, which makes them well-matched. These are very clean performances. And energy isn't sacrificed for accuracy either. The early sonatas -- especially the Op. 12 set -- sound lively and exuberant.

I especially enjoyed the "Spring" sonata (op. 24). Govatos' playing was light and airy. Her bow seemed to just glide over the top of the strings. Another high point of the set for me was the the seventh sonata (Op. 30, No. 2). The duo's smooth execution and full-throttle rush to the big cadence points ramped up the excitement. Contrast that with the hear-breaking delicacy of the slow movement, and you have a real winner.

The "Kreutzer" sonata (Op. 47) sounded a little restrained at first, but the energy level picked up as it went along. Overall, these are solid performances. The drama is there -- it's just not over the top.

The recording quality of this release is quite high. There's not a lot of room ambiance, but the instruments are recorded with enough distance to provide some natural resonance. The result is a very transparent sound that makes it easy to hear the interplay between the instruments.

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