Beethoven wrote nothing for solo viola – except for a sonata fragment recorded here for the first time.
He was, however, a viola player himself, and had already spent several years as a professional violist in the orchestra of his home town, Bonn, by the time he was 19 and began to achieve fame throughout Europe as a pianist and composer.
The reason he left nothing for viola is that there was no virtuoso viola-player in Vienna to commission works for the instrument. But he had a clear affection for the instrument, writing some of his most interesting parts for it in his chamber music – particularly the late quartets.
Many musicians, therefore, have ‘helped’ him fill the gaps: his contemporary Karl Xaver Kleinheinz (1765–1832) who arranged (and expanded) the String Trio Op. 8 as the Notturno, Op. 42, with Beethoven’s reluctant approval; and a later musician, Friedrich Hermann (1828–1907), who transformed the Septet, Op. 20, into an ambitious Grand Duo.
Paul Silverthorne, Principal Viola of the London Symphony Orchestra, has revised and improved these scores with reference to Beethoven’s originals.
He now expands the repertoire with his own transcription of the Horn Sonata, Op. 17.
The recording was made on period instruments: a Viennese Blümel piano (1865) and a Brothers Amati viola (1620).
“Beethoven's supreme logic can perhaps be more clearly appreciated here...we can experience the dedicated and delightful musicianship that these players bring to this wonderful music...The performances throughout are first-class in every respect, as is the recording quality.” International Record Review, March 2011