Now this is the way to re-launch a violinist: a two-disc set of Beethoven's two most virtuosic works for violin -- the concerto and the "Kreutzer" Sonata -- performed with two of the finest accompanists in the world -- the Wiener Philharmoniker under Riccardo Muti in the concerto and Martha Argerich in the sonata. Still, young Russian violinist Vadim Repin has a clutch of first-class recordings for Erato to his credit, including terrific couplings of Shostakovich and Prokofiev's concertos. But he had previously stayed away from recording these two core repertoire works.
Until now, that is. And it was totally worth the wait. Repin's clear intonation, sweet tone, and brilliant technique prove ideally appropriate for Beethoven's music. His concerto is quintessentially lyrical in execution, with intensely expressive but wonderfully graceful legato lines running through in all three movements. His sonata, on the other hand, is fabulously virtuosic with a searing opening Presto, a silken central Andante, and a headlong closing Presto. With old friend Muti, the Wiener Philharmoniker accompanies Repin with an effortless elegance that is as to the manor born. The always astounding Argerich has recorded the "Kreutzer" many times before, and her recording of the work with Gidon Kremer is one of the most exciting performances of anything ever made. But this performance with Repin, although very different, is surely in the same league. Repin's technique matches Kremer's and though he may not quite equal Kremer in overwhelming power, he might exceed him in sheer beauty of tone. Both works are superbly recorded with sound so clear it could hardly be said to be there at all.