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FASCINATING SUGGESTIONS

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'The Beethoven Violin Sonatas:
History, Criticism, Performance'
from the University of Illinois Press,
reviewed by ROBERT ANDERSON

 

Having taken part in a number of symposia similar to this, I am aware of their pitfalls: one contributor will write too much, another too little; subject-matter is treated unevenly, so that proportions go awry; otiose duplication creeps in; sins of commission are compounded by sins of omission; consistency is far to seek. The list could be vastly extended, and this volume proves no exception. The fact is these ten sonatas could readily be tackled by a single author, and presumably some day will be. I wonder which of the present contributors might best achieve the task.

The Beethoven Violin Sonatas: History, Criticism, Performance. Edited by Lewis Lockwood and Mark Kroll. © 2004 University of Illinois Press
The Beethoven Violin Sonatas: History, Criticism, Performance. Edited by Lewis Lockwood and Mark Kroll. © 2004 University of Illinois Press

The chapter I enjoyed most was the last, where Mark Kroll treats of 'Beethoven's keyboard legato', achieved mainly by prolonging notes with the finger rather than the pedal, in defiance of notation but not musicianship. These fascinating suggestions, derived from writings by C P E Bach, Louis Adam, Hummel and Czerny, perhaps need modification on the modern grand, as may have been the case when in spring 1818 Beethoven received the splendid Broadwood instrument that he came to prefer over the lighter Streicher pianos of previous days. But by then the series of duo sonatas was complete, and Beethoven was probably too deaf to bother with such refinements.

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Copyright © 14 November 2004 Robert Anderson, London UK

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