BEETHOVEN: Violin Sonatas Op. 12, Nos. 1-3 (Ibolya Toth/ Jeno Jando/ Takako Nishizaki) (Naxos: 8.550284)
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Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)
Violin Sonatas, Op. 12, Nos. 1-3
Ludwig van Beethoven's early musical training at home in Bonn hadprovided him with some ability as a string player as well as with moreremarkable virtuosity on the keyboard. As a court musician, following hisinadequate father and his highly distinguished grandfather in the service ofthe Archbishop-Elector of Cologne, he was employed both as court organist andas a viola-player. When he finally left Bonn for Vienna in 1792, it has been suggestedthat he took violin lessons from Ignaz Schuppanzigh, a former viola-player, sixyears Beethoven's junior, who had recently turned to the violin and aprofessional career that was to be of some distinction. Beethoven's memorandumbook, at least, contains the note Schupp. 3 times a W., which others suppose areference to Schuppanzigh's father, a professor at the Realschule, who mighthave been recruited to help make up the deficiencies in the young man's generaleducation. He also received instruction on the violin from Wenzel Krumpholtz, aformer member of Haydn's orchestra at Esterhaza, who had recently joined theVienna court orchestra, a musician who showed a rare early understanding ofBeethoven's work as a composer. Nevertheless his early career in Vienna wasprimarily as a pianist of considerable virtuosity, a course of life limitedfrom the turn of the country by his deafness and by his growing prowess as acomposer of the most remarkable power and originality.
Beethoven's compositions for violin and piano cover a period from about1790 unti11818. An early set of variations on a theme from Mozart's opera The Marriage of Figaro and a Rondo were followed by the first completeviolin and piano sonatas, a set of three published in 1799 and composed duringthe course of the preceding two years. The sonatas were dedicated to theImperial Kapellmeister Antonio Salieri, from whom Beethoven had sought lessonson his first arrival in Vienna, acquiring from him a growing understanding ofvocal writing. While early lessons from Haydn were soon abandoned, the lessonswith Salieri, for which no charge was made, continued for at least ten years.
The new sonatas were not altogether well received. The critic of theAllgemeine Musikalische Zeitung describes them as strange and bizarre, andfinds further fault with an element he describes as learned and unnatural,heaping difficulties on difficulties, while admitting that may have someattraction for those in search of musical perversities. For later generationsthe sonatas came to occupy an important position in the duo repertoire,examples of sonatas in which the violin offers no mere optional accompanimentto a solo piano sonata but serves as an equal partner.
The Sonata in D major, Opus 12 No.1,opens with a movement of some brilliance, which nevertheless contains anintriguing and necessary element of counterpoint, a fact that some critics mayhave felt unnatural. The second movement consists of a theme, announced firstby the piano, and a series of four variations, and the sonata ends with arondo, its principal theme first declared by the piano, followed by the violin,framing intervening episodes of an unexpected harmonic turn.
The last of the set, Sonata No.3 inE flat major, contains elements of virtuoso piano writing in itsfirst movement. The C major slow movement has a characteristic principaltheme, appearing first in the piano, an element of song that the early Leipzigcritic, one of those later stigmatised by Beethoven as oxen, failed to notice.
Difficulties, however, there are, not least in the harmonic explorations ofthe final rondo, which opens with a cheerful but potentially dramaticprincipal theme.
Takako Nishizaki is one of Japan's finest violinists. After studyingwith her father, Shinji Nishizaki, she became the first student of ShinichiSuzuki, the creator of the famous Suzuki Method of violin teaching forchildren. Subsequently she went to Japan's famous Toho School of Music, and tothe Juilliard School in the United States, where she studied with Joseph Fuchs.
Takako Nishizaki is one of the most frequently recorded violinists inthe world today. She has recorded ten volumes of her complete Fritz KreislerEdition, many contemporary Chinese violin concertos, among them the Concerto byDu Mingxin, dedicated to her, and a growing number of rare, previouslyunrecorded violin concertos, among them concertos by Spohr, Beriot, Cui,Respighi, Rubinstein and Joachim. For Naxos she has recorded Vivaldi's Four Seasons, Mozart's Violin Concertos, Sonatas by Mozart andBeethoven and the Bach, Mendelssohn, Tchaikovsky, Beethoven, Bruch and BrahmsConcertos.
The Hungarian pianist JenoJando has won a number of piano competitions in Hungary and abroad, includingfirst prize in the 1973 Hungarian Piano Concours and a first prize in thechamber music category at the Sydney International Piano Competition in 1977.
He has recorded for Naxos all the piano concertos and sonatas of Mozart. Otherrecordings for the Naxos label include the concertos of Grieg and Schumann aswell as Rachmaninov's Second Concerto
and Paganini Rhapsody andBeethoven's complete piano sonatas.