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“Capucon and Braley eschew the bright lights for a place where mellowness, intimacy and relative refinement are more obvious priorities. These are among the smoothest and most beautiful-sounding Beethoven duo-sonata performances to have come my way in recent years.”

Renaud Capuçon and Frank Braley have devoted much of their 2009-10 concert schedule to Beethoven’s complete sonatas for violin and piano. “These sonatas are full of memories for me,” says Capuçon. “The ‘Spring’ Sonata was the first piece of Beethoven I played, when I was ten years old. His music is a rite of passage for every violinist.”

Beethoven: Violin Sonatas Nos. 1-10 (Complete)
Renaud Capuçon (violin) & Frank Braley (piano)

This complete recording of Beethoven’s sonatas for violin and piano grows from a marathon performance project that Renaud Capuçon and Frank Braley launched in their native France in Summer 2009: some 50 concerts around Europe, all devoted to the Beethoven sonatas.

The BBC Music website has observed that: “Capuçon's style, perhaps because of his regular chamber work, is natural, understated and perceptive; the sound of a musician happily relaxed in his skin and not feeling the need to prove any virtuosic credentials.” Indeed, chamber music has always played a central role in his activities, and – beyond his cellist brother Gauthier – his regular partners include pianists Frank Braley and Nicholas Angelich, while his list of colleagues also includes such names as Martha Argerich, Daniel Barenboim, Hélène Grimaud, André Watts, Yefim Bronfman, Myung-Whun Chung, Stephen Kovacevich, Jean-Yves Thibaudet, Vadim Repin, Katia and Marielle Labèque, Yuri Bashmet and Truls Mørk.

“The complete Beethoven is a major project for the next two years,” explained Capuçon to the newspaper Sud-Ouest in summer 2009. “We hadn’t yet performed the Beethoven sonatas in France and we will be taking them on a major European tour. They are a real marathon of three-and-a-half hours of music. We perform the ten sonatas in chronological order so that we can follow the composer’s evolution.

“These sonatas are full of memories for me. The ‘Spring’ Sonata was the first piece of Beethoven I played, when I was ten years old. His music is a rite of passage for every violinist. I wanted to perform the complete cycle before thinking about the Bach sonatas, which are the Everest of the repertoire.

“Beethoven gives you no place to hide in these sonatas. You have to find their spinal column, create a structure – and sing. Without wishing to appear pretentious, I’ve always felt at ease with Beethoven, more than with Schubert or Mozart. But it is for the public to judge.”

According to another French newspaper, La Provence, Capuçon and Braley “won over the public in triumphant fashion” at the festival of La Roque d'Anthéron with interpretations of Beethoven that were “fluid, precise, full of integrity … emphasising both the sweetness and energy of Beethoven … The two instruments established a delicious dialogue.”

Renaud Capuçon’s Virgin Classics recording of the Beethoven Violin Concerto, released in 2009, prompted the BBC Music Magazine to state that he “approaches the Beethoven Concerto very much like the great virtuosos of the past through emphasising the work’s lyrical and expressive qualities”. He and Braley have frequently performed together as a duo and their previous recordings of chamber music for Virgin Classics embrace Schubert (the ‘Trout’ Quintet and the Trios opp 99 & 100) and Ravel (the Piano Trio and Violin Sonata).

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