WORKS: Cello Sonata in F, Op. 5/1; Cello Sonata in G minor, Op. 5/2; Variations on ‘Bei Männern’, WoO 46; Horn Sonata in F, Op. 17 (arr. for cello)
PERFORMER: Maria Kliegel (cello); Nina Tichman (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 8.555785
The temptation in early Beethoven is to go looking for foretastes of things to come – the heroism of the middle period, or even the concentrated inwardness of the late sonatas and string quartets. It can work, though it’s much better to approach these pieces as the two fine performers on this disc do – as exceptionally original works of the late Classical period, written by a young man with strong ambitions and strong feelings, but who for the moment is still able to contain both within the boundaries of the style he has inherited from Haydn and Mozart. Napoleon hasn’t invaded the drawing-room yet, and the withdrawn mystic of later years hasn’t even entered the frame. The playing of Maria Kliegel and Nina Tichman is full of character and vitality, but it’s also impressively disciplined – and they work splendidly as a duo. Taut and sharply focused, their music-making has clean phrasing that owes something to ‘period’ playing styles without ever sounding mannered. Perhaps there could have been a touch more humour in the Mozart Variations, but I still found this performance more compelling than most. The recording has captured a remarkably convincing cello-piano balance; in practice the modern piano can all too easily overwhelm the cello, but not here. This is at least as good as Suzuki and Kojima (Deutsche Harmonia Mundi), but a fair bit cheaper.