Friedrich Kuhlau: Violinsonater vol. 1
10 November 2014
David FanningThe German-born Friedrich Kuhlau settled in Copenhagen in his early twenties
and enjoyed a modest amount of success there. He has been posthumously adopted by Danes as a figurehead composer of their so-called Golden Age in the first half of the 19th century (represented more famously in literature and philosophy by the likes of Hans Christian andersen and Kierkegaard). Great admirer of Beethoven
though he may have been, Kuhlau's sonatas for violin and piano sound more like a transitional phase between Mozart and Weber (with strong echoes of the latter's Grand Duo concertant
, too, of Schubert's so-miscalled Sonatinas. The opening of the first of the shorter Op 79 sonatas sounds like a missing link between Mozart's E flat Piano Quartet and schumann's Piano Quintet. No small compliment, this, and there is a good deal of jolly pianistic athleticism. Yet with little or nothing of the kind of adventure and risk-taking of the major figures above mentioned, the music remains more suited to domestic listening and pedagogical use than to the concert-hall experience. The playing on the new Dacapo disc is admirably clean, flexible and responsive
, both to the music and between the two players. The piano tone itself is quite metallic but not all that hard to adjust to. Jens Cornelius supplies an informative essay. Admittedly Kuhlau rarely puts a foot wrong, but that's mainly because he likes the security of the middle of the road.