Tiberghien and Ibragimova maintain the wonderful synergy of their two previous albums in the final instalment of this riveting series. As with the others, it’s a challenge as to which of the countless felicities to mention first. The fluctuating dynamics are as good a point as any: Beethoven dubbed these works, in effect, piano sonatas with violin accompaniment (like Mozart’s) and the pair acknowledge this throughout, with long passages where the piano is rightly dominant.
The three sonatas are well contrasted: the playful and witty Op 12 in E flat with its variable pulse in the first movement is perfectly captured by the pair, the rather banal theme (described as “dim-witted” in the liner notes) of the final movement completely transformed by the magic of their partnership. The Op 30 A-major Sonata is deliciously suave and Tiberghien is dominant in the slow movement, with Ibragimova reticent and the pianist dispatching the demanding variations of the last movement with panache.
The series ends, appropriately, with the mighty Kreutzer sonata, perhaps the only work in this genre with the sense of drama and power we take for granted in Beethoven’s music. Here, Ibragimova is amazing: she may look gamine but her tone is quite masculine and suggests real passion. In the central variation movement, Beethoven achieves the same sublime delicacy as in the last movement of the Op 111 Piano Sonata: the theme is broken up into smaller and smaller fragments and the notes become like an endless string of precious jewels. In the final tarantella the exquisite tension is released and the players hurtle through a cat and mouse-like chase. What a pity there’s no Volume 4!