International listeners have long lamented that Belgian violinist Arthur Grumiaux and Chilean pianist Claudio Arrau never completed their survey of Beethoven's violin sonatas for the Dutch Philips label. American listeners, however, had even more reason to complain since Philips released only four of Grumiaux and Arrau's six Beethoven recordings in the United States. Thankfully, Philips has at last righted this wrong by releasing all six on this two-disc set so that instead of merely the Op. 12/2, Op. 23, Op. 24, and Op. 30/3, American listeners can finally hear Grumiaux and Arrau's Op. 12/1 and Op. 30/2 as well.
They will not be disappointed. As his longtime fans know, Grumiaux was an ideal violinist with a peerless combination of immaculate intonation and impeccable technique. Beyond that, Grumiaux's tone was smooth and clear, his vibrato tight and sweet, and his interpretations wholly objective. One gets the sense here of listening not to Grumiaux's Beethoven but through Grumiaux to Beethoven. And as his longtime fans know, Arrau was, if not an altogether ideal pianist at this late stage in his career, still a commanding player. His technique was not what it had been 20 years earlier, but his poised tempos, lucid balances, and golden tone here were as masterful as they had ever been. Together, Grumiaux and Arrau delivered performances of these sonatas that, like the young Beethoven, are polished but sincere and passionate but controlled. Anyone who admires either of the performers, the works, or the composer should by all means hear this two-disc set. Recorded in 1975 and 1976 and reissued here in 2008, Philips' stereo sound is so transparent that there seems to be nothing between the performers and the listeners except clear air.