The rarest item in this curious Beethoven assemblage is an early Duo for unspecified instruments, though it works quite well when played as here, on viola and cello. Its opening Allegro is attractive enough, but the minuet-like second movement is stiff and awkwardly written. More idiomatically conceived for the same two instruments is the Duo ‘with two obbligato eyeglasses’ – Beethoven’s affectionate dig at his myopic cellist friend Nikolaus Zmeskall. Viola player Maxim Rysanov and cellist Kristina Blaumane give accomplished performances of both pieces. But it’s hard to know why Rysanov includes the variation movement from the so-called ‘Notturno’ for viola and piano – an early 19th-century transcription of Beethoven’s Op. 8 Serenade for string trio. Since the variations themselves are linked to the serenade’s concluding march, he’s forced to include that too. In fact, the march is a reprise of the work’s opening movement, bringing it full-circle.
In the Clarinet Trio, Rysanov has adapted the violin part (itself Beethoven’s own alternative for the perkier wind instrument) for viola. No harm in that, especially when the playing is as polished as this. But the lone masterpiece here is the Cello Sonata, Op. 102 No.2, and Kristina Blaumane and Jacob Katsnelson really plumb the depths of its great Adagio.