The complete sonatas were recently reviewed on Radio 3's Building a Library programme and although the reviewer was complimentary about the Capucon?Braley set he preferred the Faust/Melnikoff pairing due not only to their undoubted nimbleness of playing but also I think to their claims to 'authenticity'. I don't intend to join the debate about modern versus period-style performances (both can be good and both can be bad) and certainly not pit myself against a professional musicologist but for me the astringent violin tone adopted by Faust was altogether too much of the hair shirt. The Capucon/Braley approach, undeniably modern in approach, provides a well-upholstered sound with imperious, almost insouciant, playing from Capucon.
I already had the Oistrakh/Oborin set from which I would not like to be parted, and it still sounds well enough, but when I heard the sheer gloss and opulence of the Capucon set, I had to add it to my collection.
Incidentally, two of these sonatas have been recorded by Mullova/Bezuidenhout and an extract was played on the programme perhaps for those who didn't require the whole set and would settle for an intermediate approach between the 'authentic' and modern approaches. Mullova's rich and passionate playing very much in the Russian style and, to my ears at least, rather reminiscent of Heifetz, was such that if Beethoven had heard the like he would surely have made time to write 32 of these sonatas rather than the 10 he got round to. If she records the complete set, that will be something worth waiting for, at least if you are not a dedicated 'authenticist'.
The options are yours. Make your choice. Given the quality of the competition, it would be difficult to go wrong.
This recording is most often compared with the Faust/Melnikov complete recording. Where Faust/Melnikov is aiming for a more "authentic" approach, Capucon/Braley is basing their interpretations on the fact that our ears are "modern". Their recording is part of the great tradition where we find violinists as Milstein, Menuhin, Oistrakh, Perlman, Zukerman. But these two guys don't let tradition shadow the music itself. They are very true to what is actually written. It's very obvious that they have played this music many times together before they recorded it, there is as if it was only one breathing. I get a very "classical" feeling, without any big outburst. But when they emphasize something, the effect is so much bigger. They also have the courage to let the music be playful and light, the "Spring" sonata is a perfect example of that. Music as music. It's completely unnecessary to say that they are both virtuosos on their instruments.
It's hard to believe that you can get music-making of such quality for so little!! Capucon and Braley play on modern instruments and with a modern approach, but they take no liberties with these sonatas. They play absolutely to the score, with great technical command and the most beautiful sound. What makes the set so very satisfying in comparison with some older, very distinguished sets is the quality of the recording and particularly the recorded balance, which is perfect. You can hear everything, and it is all in perfect proportion. Thus the many, many delights and subtleties of this varied and wonderful music are all there right in front of you. There are quirkier, more 'personal' sets, which may or may not be a good thing, but I cannot imagine a better set for anyone who wants to get to know this music, and I can promise that those who know it well will find this deeply satisfying. Very warmly recommended.
As is my usual habit, I set my kitchen CD player to repeat just one of these sonatas (3 or 4 tracks) and leave it set like this for the week - the "tunes" become more and more familiar - and this must be one of the best ways to get more enjoyment from any great music. These CD's will provide breakfast time joy for quite a number of weeks. Superb!