Paul Barritt

Ludwig van Beethoven: The Complete Works for Violin & Piano

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Ludwig van Beethoven: The Complete Works for Violin & Piano Review

by James Leonard

With dozens of recordings of Beethoven's complete 10 violin sonatas and hundreds of recordings of favorites like the "Spring" and "Kreutzer" sonatas already part of the collective catalog, the need for another recording of these standard repertoire works would seem minimal. But this 2008 four-disc set does more than justify its existence with fiery, fascinating performances; it could well serve as a listener's only complete set. English violinist Paul Barritt and pianist James Lisney are not only excellent individually -- Barritt with his agile attack, variegated tone, and huge technique and Lisney with his fleet dexterity, nuanced balances, and subtle dynamics -- but together their performances are more than the sum of the parts. In the opening set of Opus 12 Sonatas, Barritt and Lisney's performances are poised but rhythmically propulsive and infused with a sly but charming wit. Their reading of the lone A minor Sonata is fierce but well controlled, while their account of the "Spring" Sonata is fresh-faced and clear-eyed with a particularly affecting account of the central Adagio. In the Opus 31 set, Barritt and Lisney's interpretations take on a greater expressive intensity, particularly in the C minor Sonata. Best of all, perhaps, is their heroically virtuosic performances of the "Kreutzer" Sonata's outer movements encircling a central Andante of extraordinary lyrical beauty. But the elevated tone and refined serenity of the closing G major Sonata may ultimately prove the more enduring.

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