To start at the end, here is an ideal performance of Beethoven's last sonata in E Major to launch Metier's Beethoven Explored series. Op. 96 is an endearing and unique work which I particularly love and cherish. Everything here makes me smile with pleasure at its 'rightness' of balance, phrasing and tone (Peter Sheppard Skærved uses the RAM's 'Habaneck' Strad).
The series aims to present the Beethoven violin sonatas 'in context'. Here we have early duo pieces by Beethoven and an ambitious, interesting set of virtuosic variations by the sonata's dedicatee, Archduke Rudolf. He takes a little minuet on a journey 'through contrapuntal couplets, canons and inversions beore breaking into romantic rhapsodising'. Peter Sheppard Skærved, who writes the compendious notes, wonders if Beethoven himself might have written the adagio variation.
I am tempted to say that this is the best recording of Op. 96 I know, but recognise that unless you are a didligent comparative reviewer, the present tends to dominate the past. However, there is no real competition; this series is unique in its purpose and is to be unreservedly welcomed.
Copyright © 2003, Peter Grahame Woolf