Ahead of their exclusive series of Beethoven’s Violin Sonatas, violinist Chloë Hanslip and pianist Danny Driver tell us a bit more about this exciting project:
Ludwig van Beethoven continues to inspire generations of listeners and musicians around the world, and his popularity ensures that his music remains a ubiquitous staple of orchestral, chamber and solo concerts. Yet his evergreen appeal seems to rest on a ‘received image’ based largely upon three genres: Symphony, Piano Sonata, and String Quartet. Beside these, the Sonatas for Piano and Violin (the majority of the ten works were titled so) receive comparatively little attention in concert, on record, and in the extensive scholarly literature.
There are many reasons why we are both thrilled to perform all ten Sonatas over three concerts during 2017 at Turner Sims, among them the fact that the hall, with its beautifully voiced Steinway piano, forms an ideal setting for experiencing the intimacy and nuanced dialogue of these works. But what makes this project overwhelmingly appealing to us in a wider context is that it provides an opportunity to hear, share, and think about Beethoven in a different light.
Most of the Sonatas for Piano & Violin were written early in Beethoven’s career between 1798 and 1803, at a time when the expressive possibilities of both instruments were being developed at a rapid rate. As such, these Sonatas offer a true voyage of discovery into what had hitherto been impossible. Among the huge variety of character and scope of these works, we find abundant humour, wit, irony, beauty, lyricism, drama, and virtuosity. Epithets such as ‘heroic’, ‘philosophical’ or ‘mystical’, readily applied to Beethoven’s symphonies and string quartets, are not so evidently relevant here.
The cycle leads us from the earliest Op 12 Sonatas through the tender lyricism of the ‘Spring’ Sonata, culminating in October 2017 with the quasi-pastoral Op 96 Sonata and the Op 47 ‘Kreutzer’, an epic work which Beethoven himself deemed ‘almost in the style of a concerto’. As our journey through these works progresses, the shift from presenting the violin as an ‘accompanying instrument’ to its assertion as a protagonist equal to the piano is as clearly evident as the journey from Beethoven’s early adoption of Mozartian models to their eventual transcendence.
We hope you will enjoy this series and look forward to sharing this remarkable music with you.