Beethoven: Cello Sonatas in G minor, Op. 5/2, in A, Op. 69 & in D, Op. 102/2

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3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Beethoven
LABELS: Chandos Chaconne
WORKS: Cello Sonatas in G minor, Op. 5/2, in A, Op. 69 & in D, Op. 102/2
PERFORMER: David Watkin (cello); Howard Moody (fortepiano)
The most immediately striking difference between these two readings is the pitch: David Watkin’s Tecchler cello has been tuned down to A=430, while Jan Vogler’s Guarneri lies higher at the more modern A=440. This, coupled with two very different playing techniques, makes for wholly contrasting musical experiences: Watkin shapes the sound with his bow in a highly resonant acoustic; Vogler controls the tone with a powerfully honed left hand vibrato in an altogether more contained space. The disadvantage with the former is a lack of articulation and control: when the bow shapes the sound, changes in volume can cause pitch to swoop up and down. While the dynamic range and the sense of the music’s drama may be impressive, the balance is unsettling: the cello sound can produce a booming wash above which surface bow noise and the tinkling early piano dominate over phrase and line.


Vogler, lead cellist of the Dresden Staatskapelle, performs with true elegance, enhanced by Canino’s wonderfully delicate playing on a modern piano, which does much to destroy Watkin’s case for using 1800s fortepianos, matching the time when the sonatas were written. There are moments, such as in the exquisite Andante of the A major Sonata, when Vogler’s phrases can seem a little square-ended, but the poetic furore with which he approaches the Schumann pieces reveals his capacity for Romantic fluency. Everyone has their favourite Beethoven sonatas, but the combination of high-calibre performances of both Beethoven and Schumann makes these three discs highly recommendable. Helen Wallace