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Classical Notes: April 23, 2006 Archive

Who's That Guy Up There With Anne-Sophie?

Posted at 12:27 AM on April 23, 2006 by Valerie Kahler (1 Comments)
Filed under: Musical philosophy

MPR's library has a lovely box set of Beethoven Sonatas recorded by violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter and pianist Lambert Orkis - a souvenir of their amazing 1998 world tour. At each venue, they played all ten Beethoven sonatas over the course of 3 nights.

It's clear that Lambert Orkis is a phenomenal pianist and a gifted interpreter (of everything from Bach to Crumb, according to his website!) and yet, he is relegated to "accompanist" in almost every single web mention of the Beethoven sonatas. In defense of all those websites, it's probably because the CD cover has a huge picture of Anne-Sophie plastered next to the words "Beethoven: The Violin Sonatas."

"So what?" you may be asking. Well, let's have a look at Beethoven's manuscripts, shall we? Ten Sonatas "For Piano with Violin." It's extremely rare, however, to see that phrase on a published score these days. You can find a few versions "For Piano and Violin" and plenty "For Violin and Piano." And yet, when it's time for the recital or the recording, it's billed as a Violin Sonata.

I suppose I played too much chamber music in college to ever take a pianist for granted. (I was a little afraid of them in general. I think they like this.) I saw firsthand that the piano parts in a Schubert quintet or a Shostakovich trio were not "accompaniment." Why should the piano part in a Beethoven (or any other) sonata be classified as such?

Susan Tomes, writing for The Guardian, riffs on this very subject here.

Her hope is that we can begin to reclaim that lost territory for the pianists of the world simply by watching our phraseology.

Tune in Tuesday night at around 11:30 to hear Beethoven's Sonata No. 2 for Piano and Violin. Pianist Lambert Orkis with violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter!

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