Beethoven in E flat


A great idea to start a mini Beethoven festival at King’s Place, curated by Krysia Osostowicz, who also played every first violin note, many of them in three nights worth of concerts. Dividing Beethoven’s music into keys is a much more lively way to slice through his huge, unpredictable oeuvre than the early-middle-late grading usually forced on us by the programme-note police. His actual Opus 1 No 1 (a piano trio, which opened this E Flat concert) is a good example; this is not a beginner’s work and even by bar three there’s a note, a D flat, that’s a bit surprising. Hearing the huge proportions of this trio, the first audience, including Haydn, must have already been thinking the late 18th century equivalent of “what is he on?”

Krysia and pianist Daniel Tong are midway through an even grander project, commissioning ten new pieces to partner each Beethoven violin-piano sonata. I didn’t envy Elspeth Brooke her task of writing a little E Flat something to join them up to Beethoven's sonata op 12 no 3; but she cleverly managed, while seeming to stay on the same violin tone, to move away from it and then back to where it should be for the start of the Beethoven, via an interesting arc of wide ranging piano colour.

When I enjoy a classical concert this much (it also included the divine op 127 played by the Dante Quartet in the second half) my impulse is to hear the music again as soon as I can, which like everyone else these days, I tend to do via YouTube. On such a quest, I approach the computer with partial dread, knowing that a week will soon vanish while I pursue this that and the other round the internet, led on by the evil right-hand page YouTube sidebar. Enjoyed that performance of the Eb sonata by David Oistrakh and Sviatoslav Richter? How about another Beethoven sonata by Yehudi Menuhin and Glenn Gould? Some of the big-name players I watched seemed rather annoyed by the acres of accompaniment material the violinist has to play in these ‘violin’ sonatas. Hours,days later I think I can say that I enjoyed Krysia’s cultured but twinkly op 12/3 the most. It’s cheering to know that good live performances still offer much more of the genuine oomph.

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JUDITH WEIR

Composer

© Judith Weir, 2020