Beethoven: Cello Sonata in E flat, Op. 64; Cello Sonata in A, Op. 69; Variations on ‘Ein Mädchen oder Weibchen’

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COMPOSERS: Beethoven
LABELS: Naxos
WORKS: Cello Sonata in E flat, Op. 64; Cello Sonata in A, Op. 69; Variations on ‘Ein Mädchen oder Weibchen’
PERFORMER: Maria Kliegel (cello), Nina Tichman (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 8.555786
The bulk of this disc is occupied by the so-called ‘Sonata’ Op. 64 – a competent but wholly unimaginative transcription of Beethoven’s First String Trio, itself an enchanting piece whose six-movement design was clearly modelled on that of Mozart’s great trio Divertimento, K563. For the most part the arrangement contents itself with allotting the original violin part to the pianist’s right hand, and with sharing the remaining two lines between the left hand and the cello; and apart from the occasional octave thrown in for emphasis, scarcely a single note is altered. Not by any stretch of the imagination can Beethoven himself have had a hand in the proceedings, and the workmanlike nature of the whole thing is not helped here by a generally plodding performance that fails to generate any sparks.

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Not surprisingly, the players seem much more taken with the two genuine pieces for piano and cello, both of which are performed with real understanding. It’s true that the scherzo of the Op. 69 Sonata finds them still a little easygoing (the music’s coiled-spring tension is much more vividly conveyed, for instance, on Mischa Maisky and Martha Argerich’s DG recording), and that one can imagine the approach to the opening movement’s recapitulation being more mysteriously handled; but these are admirably musical accounts which give a good deal of pleasure. For the great Op. 69 Sonata, however, my benchmark – despite the woolly recorded sound – remains the 1961 recording with Rostropovich and Richter both at the peak of their form. Misha Donat