Beethoven: Kreutzer Sonata; Schubert: Arpeggione Sonata

Jacques Thibaud

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Beethoven: Kreutzer Sonata; Schubert: Arpeggione Sonata Review

by Mike D. Brownell

This CD of violinist Jacques Thibaud and cellist Emanuel Feuermann (not to mention pianist Alfred Cortot, serving as Thibaud's accompanist) is a rare little gem, not because of the performances themselves, but because of where and when they were made: in Tokyo prior to World War II. Both of these legendary artists were primarily known through recordings. Each of them visited Japan only twice throughout their extensive careers, so to have surviving examples of their performances there is truly a boon for collectors of historical recordings. Thibaud's recording of Beethoven's "Kreutzer" Sonata was made in 1929 with the legendary Alfred Cortot. The condition of this recording is exceptionally good considering the time period. Both the violin and piano are captured with remarkable clarity, and while there are occasional moments where Thibaud's playing suffers from poor intonation, it is overall a wonderful example of his deep understanding of Beethoven and the dazzling control over tone. Feuermann's recordings of the Schubert's Arpeggione Sonata and Reger's First Cello Suite were made almost a decade later, in 1937 and 1939, respectively. Despite the gap between Thibaud and Feuermann, the sound quality of the latter's recordings contains much more hiss than the former's. No matter, really, because Feuermann's playing throughout makes it a mystery why he was not better received in Japan.

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