Daniel Tong offers a guest-blog on the Gramophone Magazine’s website about the Beethoven Plus project!
In 2014, Krysia Osostowicz and I were working on the cycle of 10 Beethoven Sonatas for Violin and Piano, on that kind of musical high that comes from immersion in the depths of fathomless art. We began talking about what we could do to mark out our cycle from the many that have come before; this repertoire is central to any serious violin/piano duo’s work and performing these 10 works side-by-side has become de rigeur. How would we join a tradition that included Oistrakh/Oberin, Szigeti/Arrau, Kramer/Argerich, and indeed which is being constantly updated? – at least three new versions have come out on disc in the intervening five years.
By May of 2015 we had commissioned 10 composers to write a short partner piece to one of the sonatas and were walking on to the stage at Kings Place in London to give the first concerts in a cycle that now consisted of 20 works, and a vibrant conversation across two centuries. Almost all the composers we approached were incredibly enthusiastic to join the project. Beethoven clearly still exerts his power, nearly 200 years after his death. This month, after further performances of the complete cycle in towns as far-ranging as Aberdeen, Oxford, Sheffield, Bristol and Cambridge, culminating in a series at the brand new Cedars Hall in Wells, which we recorded live, our second double album is released on SOMM Recordings, completing the set.
As soon as we began to receive the new works we realised that not only was Beethoven still an inspirational figure for 21st-century composers, but also that their work was shedding new light on his sonatas. …