The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music review: CD of the Week is Wigmore Live’s second volume of Beethoven violin sonatas. The Ear gives it 10 out of 10. | March 25, 2011

By Jacob Stockinger

Fans of this blog know that one of my major discoveries last year was the Wigmore Hall Live” series of recordings.

The series, made over the past several years at the famed Wigmore Recital Hall (below) in London and done live, features everything except symphony orchestras from piano soloists to string quartets, baroque chamber orchestras to cello, violin and voice recitals.

That is typical of the recording scene today. Major labels are cutting back, and more individual and group performers as well as concert halls and presenters are issuing their own recordings on their own label.

What is more, because the “Wigmore Live” CDs are recorded concerts, the format is generally a program, a deliberately planned recital with interconnections or a theme or a unity of contrasts – not just, say, all the Chopin ballades or waltzes, or all the piano sonatas by Beethoven (below) as so typically comes out of the studio.

If you check the link below, you can find my review with some of my other recommendations from last summer:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2010/07/09/classical-music-review-wigmore-hall-live-series-is-a-stand-out-of-live-recital-recordings-and-gets-the-ears-top-recommendation/

And here is a link to the entire list of Wigmore Live recordings, which can ordered through American outlets:

http://www.wigmore-hall.org.uk/live

Now I have a new recommendation to make: The second volume of Beethoven’s complete sonatas for violin and piano, with the young Russian violinist Alina Ibragimova and the young French pianist Cedric Tiberghien, has been issued. And like the first volume, it is a winner.

I now have no doubt that this will end up being my favorite recordings of the Beethoven violin sonatas, despite much good competition from Isabelle Faust and Alexander Melnikov, Gidon Kremer and Martha Argerich, Itzhak Perlman and Vladimir Ashkenazy among others.

Many things make this a top choice for me. The sonics and engineering are excellent, and the audience, your typically restrained and attentive British concert-goers, doesn’t cough a lot or unwrap cough drops and candies in the middle of a quiet passage, although they do reward fine performances with well deserved applause.

But most of all I find the playing superb. The experience of the performers, who have played many of the same Beethoven works at various festivals, shows. It never seems heavy or forced or ugly. It is balanced in dynamics, voice-leading and counterpoint. This is a real partnership of equals devoted to the music, not to their own careers or their friendship.

Here is a link some samples or snippets you might try to whet your appetite and see if you agree with me:

http://www.amazon.com/Violin-Sonata-Spring-Op-24/dp/B0045DO9DM/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&s=music&qid=1301000233&sr=1-2

I also like the programming. Generally, with these performers you get something from Beethoven’s early period, his middle and his late period all on the same CD. That gives you an instructive lesson in his development and also keeps the music interesting for its stylistic changes, something that made the first volume (below) so appealing.

This time the recital opens with a gloriously straightforward version of the famed “Spring” Sonata in F Major. Op. 24, with both extroverted lyricism and upbeat tempi. Then comes the Sonata in A Major, Op.12, No. 2 — which I like placed put of chronological order — his first published set. It matches the mood of the Spring Sonata but is even more lively.

Finally comes my favorite sonata of all 10, the last one or the “Cockcrow” Sonata, Op. 96 in G Major, with its marvelous trill motif. (You can see the manuscript, by the way, at the Pierpont Morgan Library — below — in New York City, and it is a wonder to behold.)

I find all of these performances, in no matter period, convincing and even captivating and thoroughly Beethovenian, leaning toward the school of smoother rather than the rough and choppy, which I like.

So as you can guess, I can’t wait for third and final volume, which should have en early sonata (Op. 12, No. 3), a middle sonata (Op. 30, No. 1) and the famous “Kreutzer” Op. 47, which is more or less the king of the series and should receive a magisterial reading from them, even though the live performance with Perlman and Argerich, despite some bad pitch moments, is hard to beat as a single performance.

So all in all, I give the CD 10 out of 10, and highly recommend that you listen to these Beethoven sonatas and wait for the rest from these same performers.

As for The Ear, it makes me place Wigmore Hall, where I have never been to, right up next to Bargemusic (below) in New York City, as a major stop on my daydream music pilgrimage.

Do you know the “Wigmore Live” series of recordings? What do you think?

What do you think of these performers and their Beethoven violin sonatas?

The Ear wants to hear.


Posted in Classical music

4 Comments »

  1. i have been looking at Vol.2. as I bought the first volume and love it. Cedric played in Australia in 2009. i listened to him in concert in my home city and started to seek out his performances. well worth following and owning his sensitive recordings, especially with Ibragimova on the violin.

    Comment by Mark Percival — May 22, 2011 @ 2:43 am

    • Hi Mark,
      Thank you for reading and replying.
      I couldn’t agree more.
      What did Cedric play in Australia?
      So I am watching impatiently for Vol. 3 and for separate releases from each of them.
      Do you or anyone else have an opinion about Ibragimova’s CDs of solo Bach?
      Best,
      Jake

      Comment by welltemperedear — May 22, 2011 @ 7:20 am

  2. This looks like a wonderful recording. I love Cedric
    Tiberghien! I first heard a recording on WERN, and got his Bach Partitas 2,3, and 4. His performance is great, my absolutely favorite current Bach recording. The engineering–even the cover photos!–are first rate. I think he tours only in Europe. If he came to New York I would go hear him.

    Comment by Mary Gordon — March 27, 2011 @ 6:28 pm

    • Hi Mary,
      Trust me — it is a wonderful recording. The whole set will set a new standard.
      If you like Cedric Tiberghien’s Bach, you might also like his Brahms and Chopin ballades CD, and his latest solo CD that mixes Chopin mazurkas with other works.
      Happy listening!
      Jake

      Comment by welltemperedear — March 28, 2011 @ 9:21 am


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