LABELS: EMI Eminence
WORKS: Complete sonatas and variations for cello and piano
PERFORMER: Raphael Wallfisch (cello), John York (pno)
CATALOGUE NO: CD-EMXD 2506
Don’t expect revelations here. These are honest, straight-dealing performances; committed, but never heaven-storming. In Beethoven’s two Op. 5 Sonatas, Wallfisch and York’s playing is neat and unadorned, though the poignant slow introduction of No. 2 sounds unusually drab. The final Rondo is fresh and spirited, as are the two variation sets (on ‘Ein Mädchen oder Weibchen’, from Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte, and Handel’s ‘See, the conqu’ring hero comes’, from Judas Maccabaeus) on the first disc. Disc 2 also includes a spry, mettlesome jaunt through the ‘Bei Männern’ variations.
Beethoven’s majestic Sonata in A, Op. 69, his finest work for this instrumental combination, goes well here. The noble opening movement impresses for its lack of rhetoric and abundant fire, and the scherzo exudes keen-edged rhythmic venom. The two late sonatas of Op. 102 are less successful; their innovative, questing spirit resounds less powerfully than it should. Wallfisch and York, in a serviceable if occasionally uneven cycle as a whole, never match the profundity and eloquence that Fournier and Kempff found in these late scores. That classic recording (thirty years old, but you would never believe it given DG’s remasterings) has never been superseded. Michael Jameson