James Ehnes, Andrew Armstrong - Ludwig van Beethoven: Violin Sonatas Nos. 6 & 9 'Kreutzer' (2017)

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James Ehnes, Andrew Armstrong - Ludwig van Beethoven: Violin Sonatas Nos. 6 & 9 'Kreutzer' (2017)

Ludwig van Beethoven: Violin Sonatas Nos. 6 & 9 'Kreutzer' (2017)
James Ehnes (violin), Andrew Armstrong (piano)

EAC | FLAC | Image (Cue&Log) ~ 244 Mb | Artwork included
Classical | Label: Onyx | # ONYX4170 | 01:01:55

The duo of old friends James Ehnes and Andrew Armstrong has established itself as one of the most exciting of our times. Their albums of violin sonatas by Franck & Strauss, and Debussy, Elgar & Respighi have been praised by critics worldwide. For this new album they turn to Beethoven and two A major sonatas with very different moods. The 9th, ‘Kreutzer’ sonata, is a huge work, heroic and turbulent in character – a kind of concerto for violin and piano. It is middle period Beethoven at its most dramatic. By contrast, the 6th sonata is a serene, introspective work of great beauty which has tended to be overlooked by its more outward-looking siblings. The intimacy of this sonata – especially the slow movement - is all the more surprising as the original finale was removed by the composer, to become the finale of the ‘Kreutzer’. Beethoven wrote the gentle variations to conclude the 6th sonata.

James Ehnes, Andrew Armstrong - Ludwig van Beethoven: Violin Sonatas Nos. 6 & 9 'Kreutzer' (2017)

This is James Ehnes’s first disc of Beethoven sonatas and I very much hope it will herald a complete survey. He is joined by his regular partner-in-crime, Andrew Armstrong, and their long familiarity pays real dividends. The coupling of the Kreutzer with Op 30 No 1 is also musically astute, as the latter’s original Presto finale ended up as the concluding movement of the Kreutzer.

They programme the Kreutzer first and its opening movement has that essential Bachian purity, which gives way to a Presto full of strength and energy, yet finesse and suppleness too. Silences are used to compelling effect, and the pizzicatos at 6'31" (track 1) are sufficiently present without knocking you to the back of the room. The closing moments too are judged to a nicety, taking the dynamic and tempo right down before the final explosion.

They are a tad slower in the Andante theme than Dumay and Pires or Faust and Melnikov but as soon as the variations begin their reading takes off. Ibragimova and Tiberghien, caught live, are also relatively spacious but so highly coloured that they’re compelling indeed. Ehnes and Armstrong are stunningly responsive in the finale, with a sense of propulsion, yet without overlooking its moments of delicacy.

Op 30 No 1 may share a key with the Kreutzer but otherwise they are worlds apart. The opening, which has to sound almost nonchalant, can sound forced; not here, though, where everything unfolds with complete inevitability. Faust and Melnikov play up Beethoven’s juxtapositions of dynamics and moods even more, but choice is down to taste, for both are masterly readings. Ehnes and Armstrong are ravishing in the slow movement, truly molto espressivo, while a sense of playfulness is irresistibly apparent in every bar of the finale, setting the seal on a compelling addition to Ehnes and Armstrong’s remarkable discography.

Review by Harriet Smith, Gramophone

Violinist James Ehnes and pianist Andrew Armstrong play together with an easy spark and suppleness that only old friends really can. In the past they’ve done excellent things with Franck, Strauss, Debussy and Elgar; now they turn to Beethoven with the same combination of light touch and searing focus. There’s a clarity of ideas that means they never have to overstate – take the initial phrase of the Kreutzer Sonata, the impeccably eloquent way the opening chord clouds from radiance to shade so decisively. Flashes of white heat in that sonata subside into a graceful reading of the Sixth. For some listeners, the featherweight diction won’t be brawny or volatile enough for mid-period Beethoven, but it would be wrong to mistake cleanliness for lack of emotional heft. The uncluttered, conversational generosity of this duo speaks volumes.

Review by Kate Molleson, The Guardian

James Ehnes, Andrew Armstrong - Ludwig van Beethoven: Violin Sonatas Nos. 6 & 9 'Kreutzer' (2017)

James Ehnes, Andrew Armstrong - Ludwig van Beethoven: Violin Sonatas Nos. 6 & 9 'Kreutzer' (2017)


Violin Sonata No.9 in A major, Op.47 'Kreutzer'
01. I. Adagio sostenuto (13:43)
02. II. Andante con variazioni (16:07)
03. III. Finale: Presto (8:30)

Violin Sonata No.6 in A major, Op.30/1
04. I. Allegro (7:55)
05. II. Adagio molto espressivo (7:23)
06. III. Allegretto con variazioni (8:16)

Exact Audio Copy V1.1 from 23. June 2015

EAC extraction logfile from 3. July 2017, 21:30

James Ehnes, Andrew Armstrong / Beethoven - Violin Sonatas 6 & 9

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Analyzed: James Ehnes, Andrew Armstrong / Beethoven - Violin Sonatas 6 & 9

DR Peak RMS Duration Track
DR15 -0.01 dB -18.92 dB 13:43 01-Violin Sonata No.9 in A major, Op.47 'Kreutzer' - I. Adagio sostenuto
DR16 -5.52 dB -25.71 dB 16:07 02-Violin Sonata No.9 in A major, Op.47 'Kreutzer' - II. Andante con variazioni
DR15 -0.01 dB -20.33 dB 8:30 03-Violin Sonata No.9 in A major, Op.47 'Kreutzer' - III. Finale: Presto
DR14 -3.35 dB -22.89 dB 7:55 04-Violin Sonata No.6 in A major, Op.30/1 - I. Allegro
DR14 -6.51 dB -26.85 dB 7:23 05-Violin Sonata No.6 in A major, Op.30/1 - II. Adagio molto espressivo
DR15 -0.98 dB -22.51 dB 8:16 06-Violin Sonata No.6 in A major, Op.30/1 - III. Allegretto con variazioni

Number of tracks: 6
Official DR value: DR15

Samplerate: 44100 Hz
Channels: 2
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Bitrate: 528 kbps
Codec: FLAC

James Ehnes, Andrew Armstrong - Ludwig van Beethoven: Violin Sonatas Nos. 6 & 9 'Kreutzer' (2017)

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