Rezensionen zu: Beethoven, Die Violinsonaten op. 12, 1-3 (Hänssler Classic)

The debate over »authentic« performance practices that raged during the 1970s and 1980s has largely subsided, and it is now clear that the winning side was the one that favored the use of period instruments and »historically informed« performance practice. New recordings on modern instruments of works by Samuel Scheidt or Francesco Geminiani are as rare now as any recording at all of their work was before the late 1960s; even Johann Sebastian Bach and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart now get the period – instrument treatment more often than not, and »authentic« performances of works from the romantic period have been in vogue for more than a decade. But the fact that the debate is essentially over does not mean that there remains nothing interesting to be said on the topic, and few statements carry as much weight as purely musical ones. Hence this fascinating two-disc set, on which violinist Matthias Metzger and pianist Gerrit Zitterbart play the exact same program of Beethoven chamber works on each disc, once using modern instruments and once using period instruments. The value of this release lies not so much in its contribution to the debate, since nothing here will change the mind of anyone committed to either side – the performance on modern instruments of the Rondo movement from the D-Major Sonata will sound either overly dramatic or admirably expressive, depending on one's taste; similarly, the period-instrument performance of the same movement can be heard as either artificially dry and constrained or elegantly tasteful and appropriate. Its value lies primarily in the opportunity it gives the listener to hear a side-by-side comparison of the two approaches in a situation that controls for just about every variable other than the instruments used: the performers, place of recording, sound engineers and so forth are all identical. It is also worth noting that both Metzger and Zitterbart have extensive experience in both period- and modern-instrument performance, and play with an admirable combination of confidence and sensitivity. Strongly recommended to all academic collections.
Sound Recording Review, Notes Dec 2004, Rick Handerson

 »The flying inkpot Singapur« Internet Februar 2005
This is a fascinating double-disc set and if I was disappointed, it has more to do with the choice of sonatas – Beethoven’s early opus 12, than the actual performances, which are sparkling, well-judged and full of character. If you raised an eyebrow at the necessity for two discs for just opus 12, you’d be spot-on – the first disc is played on modern instruments, the second on period instruments. Apart from the excellent level of performance, that would be the main reason to give this set another look when you next visit your record store.
I’d like to qualify what I said about the disappointment regarding opus 12 – they are very good Beethoven, well-crafted and imaginative works, but compared with the later works they come off looking bad. Metzger and Zitterbart play these so well, though, that I really wished they had recorded some of the later works first before going to the earlier ones – collectors are more likely to sample their work if they recorded, say, the opus 30 sonatas first. If their performances of the later sonatas turn out as good as these and end up not being recorded, the loss is ours.
More hectic because more articulated is how I’d describe the period instrument performances turning to them right after their modern instrument counterparts. Some of this has to do with the instruments – the fortepiano, with its propensity to sound like a harpsichord certainly contributes to this, but the difference lies mainly in the way the duo play. Metzger doesn’t eschew vibrato, avoiding that dreadful white sound that some period performers seem to love torturing listeners with, but it is used with more discrimination, to be sure. If anything the performances seem even fleeter though the timings set side to side differ by seconds in the sonatas if at all, more full of character and more generally vehement, which in this music is no bad thing. There is something very beautiful about the sound of the fortepiano especially in the slow movements. Somehow the duo seem more at home with the period instruments – Metzger plays a Joanner Georgius Leeb violin, Zitterbart a pianoforte made by Michael Walker in 2001, a copy of an instrument from Anton Walter, made in 1795 – with the performances breathing more naturally, more easily. In the last movements, especially (you’ll remember that these sonatas have only three movements) the excitement with which the duo play is positively infectious. The period instruments have a way of making the readings seem faster, which contributes without a doubt to the joy of the performances.
The timbre and percussive character of the pianoforte influences the performances more greatly than I imagined. For example the mock-angry figures rolling up the keyboard sound comical now, a bumbling oaf tripping over in his enthusiasm. I don’t know Beethoven might have played them, but it certainly sounds right when played by Zitterbart. Beethoven’s musical humour lies strongly in the accents and these are much more easily effectively out on the period instruments.
All in all this is a worthy experiment. What is gratifying is to see that musical solutions often don’t lie one way or the other, but that musicians with something to say will always be able to say it with whichever medium they choose. All we can hope for now is that this duo record the rest of the sonatas.

»Der Schallplattenmann sagt« Internet Mai 2004
Allein die Idee ist bemerkenswert: Ein Doppelalbum, auf dem Stücke einmal auf modernen, einmal historischen Instrumenten von denselben Musikern gespielt werden. Der Violinist Matthias Metzger und der Pianist Gerrit Zitterbart wählten für dieses Experiment die Beethoven’schen Violinsonaten 1-3, dazu Variationen und ein Rondo.
Das Ergebnis ist hörens- und bemerkenswert in zweierlei Hinsicht: Zum einen, weil es mit viel Charme den Geist der beschwingten Frühwerke Beethovens einfängt, zum anderen, weil in der Gegenüberstellung der völlig andere Klangeindruck auch für den Laien deutlichst herauszuhören ist. Vor allem das Hammerklavier klingt im Gegensatz zum Steinway-Flügel deutlich heller im Timbre, dafür nicht so kraftvoll und sonor wie sein zeitgenössischer Nachfolger. Auch die moderne Violine hat ein anderes Klangbild als ihre historische Kollegin – reizvoll sind in der Tat beide Varianten. Für Beethoven-Freunde und Musik-Interessierte.
@@@@ – definitives Highlight

The New Zealand Herald 5. Mai 2004
Endless cheers are due for Hanssler Classic in allowing Matthias Metzger and pianist Gerrit Zitterbart to make not one, but two recordings of three Beethoven sonatas and other assorted pieces, the first time around on modern instruments and then, on a second disc, using period instruments. The good news is that these are available on the one release – and it is a mid-price double CD.
How easily the ear is wooed by the bewitching sound of 200 years ago, with Zitterbart on a recreation of a 1795 Walter fortepiano behind Metzger on his gut-stringed Leeb violin.
The blend between violin and keyboard lines seems to spring from the same source, and there is a fetching flutter when passage work is more strenuous, as well as some real surprises – Beethoven’s attractive Variations on Leporello’s Se vuol ballare opens uncannily like a mandolin ensemble.
In performance, the two men carry much over from the »authentic« CD to the modern one, especially in the restraint shown in the sonata’s slow movements, where one can hear more being made of articulation than dynamic contrast. It is exciting to sense them working so much harder on the older instruments in the Allegros, with Metzger’s spirited double-stopping.
Although there is musicological fascination to be had here, we’re not talking mere academicism. In our age, when classical music is increasingly marketed for mood potential, particularly of the chill-out variety, this is an album which offers you the chance to match your Beethoven to your disposition of the day.

pizzicato November 2004
Ideen muss man haben! Wer auch immer das Konzept zu dieser Doppel-CD machte, er verdient, dass man vor ihm den Hut zieht! Man nehme also zwei Interpreten, die vertraut sind mit modernen und zugleich mit alten Instrumenten und mit historischer Aufführungspraxis. In diesem Falle den Violinisten Matthias Metzger und seinen Partner, den Pianisten Gerrit Zitterbart. Man lässt sie eine Reihe von Werken einspielen, die ihnen vertraut sind. In diesem Falle Beethovens drei erste Violinsonaten op.12, entstanden 1797/98, dazu die Variationen zur Arie des Figaro aus Mozarts »Nozze« und das Rondo G-Dur, noch frühere Werke, da beide aus dem Jahre 1793 stammen.
Anstatt sie aber nur einmal einzuspielen, nimmt man sie gleich doppelt auf, und so kann der Hörer zwei Versionen derselben Stücke von den gleichen Interpreten gespielt, zuerst »modern«, dann auf historischer Instrumenten, unmittelbar miteinander vergleichen.
Daher ist der Beifall für eine solche Initiative verdient und er soll lange anhalten, zumal die Interpreten bestens verdeutlichen, was sich seit Beethovens Tagen am Klangbild der beiden Instrumente geändert hat, Besonders faszinierend sind die Klangunterschiede mit einerseits einer Violine von J. G. Leeb mit Darmsaiten und einem Hammerflügel von Michael Walker, der Kopie eines Instrumentes von Anton Walter aus dem Jahre 1795, zum anderen einer Violine von Gagliano und einem klangschönen Steinway D. Durch diese Unterschiede ändern sich auch die Klangeindrücke radikal, und das raffiniert eingefädelte Spiel mit unseren Hörgewohnheiten ist wirklich faszinierend.
Also: Nochmals Hut ab und Dank für die so erhaltenen Vergleichsmöglichkeiten! Sie sind faszinierend.