Midori Seiler / Jos van Immerseel

Beethoven: Complete Sonatas for Violin & Piano

(CD - Zig Zag / Zig Zag Territoires #ZIG 307)

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Period-instrument performances of Beethoven's violin sonatas aren't too common; they pose thorny problems of balance even beyond the question of whether Beethoven wouldn't have preferred modern instruments if he could have had them. But this superbly musical set by violinist Midori Seiler, playing an Italian Baroque violin of unknown manufacture, and fortepianist Jos van Immerseel, on a copy of an entirely appropriate Viennese Walter piano, may well redefine the standard for these works. The sonatas were recorded at different times in the late 2000s decade, and some were issued separately, but all were very nicely recorded in the chamber music hall of the Luxembourg Philharmonie, and they are very much a set. The joys of these recordings run across all three discs (the ordering of the sonatas was done merely in order to fit the complete program onto three), and they come from both players as well as from the interaction between the two. In the all-important Violin Sonata in No. 9 A minor, Op. 47 ("Kreutzer"), Seiler uses the rougher articulation of the Baroque violin to impart a loose, dramatic feel to the sonata's vast opening movement. The final Violin Sonata in G major, Op. 96, a work that anticipates Beethoven's late creative period, is marvelous; Seiler and van Immerseel understand that this most Brahmsian of Beethoven's works doesn't need too much help from the performers. Its perfectly innocent theme develops naturally into mysterious complexities as it shifts rhythmically both in relation to the piano accompaniment and to itself, and it works best if presented straightforwardly, as Seiler and van Immerseel do here. The earlier sonatas crackle with unexpected dialogue between the two instruments, something new in Beethoven's time, and there's real excitement in the performances even as they remain restrained. Not one is by the book or dull. Highest possible recommendation.

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