Beethoven’s Sonata No 3 was written in 1798, when Beethoven was 27. Already, the composer’s tendency to make the two instruments equal partners was well established. Part of a set, Beethoven dedicated them to his teacher, Salieri. This sunny work contrasts with the seriousness of the Kreutzer.

Unusual for the time, the work begins with the violin. One can only imagine the audience reaction at the premiere. The piano enters, and the two instruments seem to square off as if workingout a way of proceeding. Then suddenly, it’s on, and the movement erupts with fierce energy. At the
time of the Kreutzer’s composition in 1803, Beethoven was aware of his increasing deafness: the battle in the first movement could reflect this.

At 36’, it is a demanding and engrossing work. The recording is excellent and the performances are lively and committed. In the notes, Bezuidenhout makes a persuasive case for the fortepiano, citing the familiar arguments about timbre, speed of audio decay and so on.

One must respect the research, up to a point. Some years ago, when challenged over the new passion for the fortepiano, a prominent academic loftily observed, “You’ll get used to it”. Perhaps, but to my ears the plonky sounds detract from the musical experience. So, if the fortepiano is not for you, approach this otherwise excellent recording with caution.

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