Benjamin Hudson

Beethoven: Complete Violin Sonatas

(CD - Nimbus Records #5557)

Review by

In the interests of understanding period practices and the composer's intentions, as far as they may be known, it is salubrious to listen now and then to performances on authentic instruments by leading experts. But there are times when such authoritative and scholarly renditions are physically painful to hear, somewhat like taking foul-tasting medicine that only cures if it doesn't kill. Such is the case with this extremely dangerous collection of Beethoven's complete violin sonatas, irritatingly performed by two Classical specialists, violinist Benjamin Hudson and fortepianist Mary Verney. Almost every time Hudson hits the open A or E strings, or bows upward on high pitches, his shrill tone penetrates to the auditory nerve as severely as fingernails on a chalkboard; and when Verney strikes high chords with sforzando accentuation, they feel somewhat like spikes driven into the ear. If this distressing set passes for authentic Beethoven, then his deafness may have been a blessing. The cavernous and echoic venue of Wyastone Leys, Monmouth, exaggerates this ferocious duo's playing to a stunning racket and makes listening extremely difficult. There may be music here that some connoisseur may appreciate, but getting past the caterwauling requires extraordinary courage. For safety's sake, keep the volume low.

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