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Duo seems to share a musical mind meld

The Georgia Straight

by John Keillor

This concert was the third in a series of three by pianist Jane Coop and violinist Andrew Dawes. Its program reflected the duo’s recent three-CD set showcasing Ludwig van Beethoven’s 10 sonatas for violin and piano, which has been nominated for a Juno Award.

Rather than starting the show with a rousing bang, Coop and Dawes began with 1798’s Sonata No. 3 in E-flat major, Op. 12, among the composer’s earliest violin sonatas. It reveals only hints of Beethoven’s later, iconoclastic power. This sonata isn’t about shaking up its listeners. It offers stylish, lyrical Viennese tropes, withholding any controversial approaches that might have sullied the young composer’s new career.

Coop and Dawes didn’t gussy up the score, allowing this urbane, savvy product to shine because of its commendable, if not earth-shattering, structure. It wasn’t heart¬≠wrenching or edgy. The playing was, instead, transporting; Coop and Dawes are extremely believable and evocative interpreters. Their rendition was free of self-aggrandizing fireworks, capturing the composer’s real situation at the time. Music in young Beethoven’s Vienna was still produced by a mostly servile class. He had yet to shake off that stigma entirely, which made his early music sometimes necessarily politic and easily apprehended.

Beethoven’s signature sound was more identifiable in the ensuing 1802 Sonata No. 3 in A major, Op. 3. Its compelling intimacy and rockily distinctive features cohered with daunting sophistication. Coop and Dawes rendered it transparent. Their audience felt the ache of being overwhelmed. The quantum musical leap Beethoven made between 1795 and 1805 was impossible to miss, interpreted through a thoroughly West Coast voice.

In the 1960s, “West Coast” became the moniker for a Californian style of jazz that emphasized fluency and made performing sound like a breeze. It seems a fitting label for Coop and Dawes’s spontaneous, confident approach. The two never drop hints to remind their listeners how much talent and dedication are required to become so good. (Their aforementioned CD of Beethoven violin sonatas, released by Skylark Music, captures these performance pluses. It’s a must-have recording.)

The second half of the concert was taken up by Beethoven’s 1803 Sonata No. 9 in A major, Op. 47 (the “Kreutzer”). This score is an unqualified masterpiece, a journey of epic proportions couched in a lyric setting. Coop and Dawes’s performance was as good as their recording of it.

The Vancouver duo seem to share a musical mind meld. The nuances of Beethoven’s emotional soundscapes are so many that it’s easy for chamber musicians to lose one another in performance. Check out the many bang-and-crash versions of the “Kreutzer” sonata: what careless listeners might mistake for the performers’ depth of feeling is all too often only a distress signal. Coop and Dawes, however, never lose one another, live or on disc. They know the music’s terrain too well.

Thu Apr 11, 2002