The 25 Essential Beethoven Recordings: Perlman & Ashkenazy's Sonatas

Monday, November 05, 2012

Itzhak Perlman & Vladimir Ashkenazy Play Beethoven Sonatas Itzhak Perlman & Vladimir Ashkenazy Play Beethoven Sonatas

For nearly 40 years, this recording by Itzhak Perlman and Vladimir Ashkenazy has been the benchmark for the “Kreutzer” and “Spring” Sonatas. The violinist’s spontaneity and tonal beauty is matched with Ashkenazy’s flexible, precise pianism and together they offer a sense of freshness and discovery.

The “Kreutzer” Sonata, composed in 1802-3, after the Heiligenstadt Testament in which Beethoven wrote of his near-suicidal despair, was dedicated to the violinist Rodolphe Kreutzer, a composer of 19 violin concertos. It marks an era of revolution in Beethoven’s music, heard immediately in the dramatic solo violin opening. The intensity is lightened in the following set of variations while the fast, craggy finale is worlds removed from anything Haydn might have dreamt up.

The “Spring” was composed just a couple years earlier, but it represents the opposite pole of Beethoven's expressive world, being lithe and melodic. Perlman and Ashkenazy are a finely balanced duo but not the only strong choice out there. Collectors might also consider versions by Gidon Kremer and Martha Argerich (Deutsche Grammophon) and Jascha Heifetz and Benno Moiseiwitsch.

Weigh in on our choice and tell us about your favorite version of these sonatas in the comments below:

Itzhak Perlman and Vladimir Ashkenazy
Sonata for Violin and Piano no 5 in F major, Op. 24 "Spring"
Sonata for Violin and Piano no 9 in A major, Op. 47 "Kreutzer"
Available at


More in:

Comments [4]

Howard Schumann from Vancouver, BC

I have not heard anything better than the Kreisler and Rupp. A close second are the soulful performances of Szigetti and Arrau. Nothing else comes close.

Sep. 22 2015 02:12 AM
Mark Shulgasser from Long Eddy, NY

In the 10 Beethoven sonatas I find that Perlman/Ashkenzy are quite light-weight compared to the deep and magnificent readings of Pincas Zuckerman with Daniel Barenboim.

Sep. 23 2013 11:15 PM
Kenneth Bennett Lane, Lake Hiawatha, NJ from Richard Wagner Music Drama nstitute, Boonton, NJ

The Kreutzer and Spring Sonatas have so many recorded versions that, though musical style and virtuosity may account for something, what ultimately figures most is one's own inclinations musically. Beethoven's universal scope in symphonies, opera, concertos, sonatas, string quartets, overtures, chamber music generally ,and song literature is so pervasive and his world consciousness and basic humanity construct an icon unparalleled to and past his own era. At Juilliard, I studied his oeuvre and , in those days, all singers learned the concert rep of Beethoven , Schubert , Schumann, Wolf and Grieg, whether they would be opera singers or concert singers. So much of our treasured masterpiece, vocal and instrumental, are unknown quantities to most Americans. THANK YOU WQXR FOR CELEBRATING BEETHOVEN !!! Beethoven's symphonies are the ABCs of most essential single composers' oeuvre of the symphonic literature. Who ever having heard the Waldstein well performed can ever forget its beauty and nuanced scope of emotions. Wagner and his contemporaries and their successors all recognized the epic achievement of Beethoven. I am a romantischer Wagnerian heldentenor and director of the Richard Wagner Music Drama Institute at 418A Main Street, Boonton, NJ .I have sung four solo concerts in four solo concerts in the Isaac Stern Auditorium of Carnegie Hall. As part of my Ten Language Solo Debut concert at the Isaac Stern Auditorium of Carnegie Hall, I sang the Gott ! welch dunkel hier ! aria of Fidelio. it can be heard from the live performance on my three websites. It received rave critical notices in newspapers and magazines. Rudolf Serkin and his son, Peter are among those other great interpreters of Beethoven's piano concertos and sonatas, Artur Rubinstein, Vladimir Horowitz, Walter Gieseking, ignace Paderewvski and Simon Barere, remarkable for their virtuosity, and immense ability to interpret from their own perspective.

Nov. 12 2012 07:36 PM
Andrew from Lower Merion, PA

Why single out just 2 violin sonatas from the 10? That is like trying to single out 2 from the 9 Beethoven symphonies, or 2 from the 32 piano sonatas? Why not recommend a box set that can be had for just a tad more and also get, for instance, op. 95 and op. 30 sonatas... ? Why not get more for your money?

There are at least two Beethoven violin sonata sets that are equal to, if not better than, the Perlman-Ashkenazy set:

Pamela Frank with her father, the pianist Claude Frank

David Oistrakh with, pianist Lev Oborin (

If you are interested in today's young artists, go for violinists Isabelle Faust or Renaud Capucon, both of whom put out acclaimed sets. The entire Capucon set is available on mp3 for the price of 1 CD!

We are terribly spoiled that there are so many great recordings of the entire set of violin sonatas. Go for it, get all 10! Why did WQXR pick the single CD Ashkenazy-Perlman for its list of essential Beethoven recordings? It's hardly a deal.

Nov. 05 2012 10:53 AM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.

The WQXR e-newsletter. Show highlights, links to music news, on-demand concerts, events from The Greene Space and more.

Follow WQXR 







About Beethoven Awareness Month

No composer impacted the course of Western music like Ludwig van Beethoven. The events of his life are the stuff of Romantic legend, his works permeate concert halls and he remains a cultural icon outside of classical music, turning up in movies, TV soundtracks, commercials and pop songs. Throughout November, WQXR celebrates Beethoven's work through concert broadcasts, multimedia projects, marathons and other features.