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CD cover - Beethoven By Arrangement Beethoven By Arrangement, Volume 1
Viola Sonata in A (fragment)
Notturno, Op. 42 (arr. Karl Xaver Kleinheinz)
Horn Sonata in F, Op. 17 (arr. Silverthorne)
Grand Duo in E flat (arr. Friedrich Hermann after Septet, Op. 20)

Paul Silverthorne (viola); David Owen Norris (piano)
Toccata Classics TOCC0108 (full price, 1 hour 20 minutes)
Producer/Engineer Michael Ponder
Dates June 23rd-26th, 2009

International Record Review

This is a most interesting and valuable CD which should commend itself to all true Beethovenians as well as (naturally) to viola players. Despite being a proficient violist himself (as well as pianist, of course), Beethoven left precious little for the instrument, but that which he did, including an eight-bar fragment from a movement of a projected Sonata for viola and piano, is included on this disc.

Beethoven's Op. 42, the Notturno for viola and piano, is an arrangement by Karl Xaver Kleinheinz of the Op. 8 Serenade for string trio and, despite Beethoven's apparently lukewarm endorsement of this version, he must have felt (after a few expurgations and emendations) it good enough, for he allowed it to be published with a new opus number. Another nineteenth-century arrangement, of the Op. 20 Septet by Friedrich Hermann, is also here alongside Paul Silverthorne's present-day version of the Sonata, Op. 17, originally, of course, for horn and piano. This last work Beethoven himself arranged for cello and piano, varying the horn part en route, so there is something authentic in rearranging it for a stringed instrument with which Silverthorne was able to work.

The result, in the case of Op. 17, is extraordinarily successful, an authentic-sounding Sonata perfectly laid out for the viola (the piano part remains the same, of course). It is extremely well played by both Silverthorne and David Owen Norris, and the recorded balance is exemplary. One's only slight regret is that, at under 12 minutes overall (Beethoven being mindful of the restrictions of the late-eighteenth-century horn), it is almost too short a sonata for a stringed instrument (the cello version notwithstanding), but I found it an entirely convincing and natural-sounding work in this arrangement.

The instrumental reductions occasioned by the arrangements of the other, larger, works oblige one to concentrate more on the musical arguments of the individual pieces rather than on the composer's original instrumentation. The result is that Beethoven's supreme logic can perhaps be more clearly appreciated here. Once again, with a performance of the quality here, we can experience the dedicated and delightful musicianship that these players bring to this wonderful music.

The authentic Viola Sonata fragment is no more than that, but it is clearly by Beethoven, and brief though it be it merited recording. The performances throughout are first-class in every respect, as is the recording quality. Silverthorne's own booklet notes are a model of informative lucidity. This is a well-merited addition to the Beethoven discography.
Robert Matthew Walker