Beethoven: Cello Sonatas, Op. 102; Variations on ‘See the conqu’ring hero comes’; Duet in E flat for viola and cello, WoO 32

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COMPOSERS: Beethoven
LABELS: Naxos
ALBUM TITLE: Music for Cello & Piano, Vol. 3
WORKS: Cello Sonatas, Op. 102; Variations on ‘See the conqu’ring hero comes’; Duet in E flat for viola and cello, WoO 32
PERFORMER: Maria Kliegel (cello), Nina Tichman (piano), Tabea Zimmermann (viola)
CATALOGUE NO: 8.555787
As with the previous instalments in Maria Kliegel’s highly enterprising survey of Beethoven’s music for cello (reviewed November 2002 and July 2003), this release offers some repertoire that is well off the beaten track. Here the novelty is the Duet for viola and cello. This modest two-movement composition, dating from the composer’s early years in Vienna, is hardly an earth-shattering masterpiece, but it makes considerable technical demands on the cello, demands that are brilliantly surmounted in this spontaneous and enjoyable performance from Kliegel and viola-player Tabea Zimmermann. The two late Sonatas of Op. 102 are of course rather more challenging. Kliegel and pianist Nina Tichman respond to these difficulties with extremely incisive dynamics and articulation in the dramatic musical argument of the opening of the D major No. 2. But despite their excellence, they are sometimes hampered by a closely miked recording which robs their performance of a certain degree of intimacy. Yet, in comparison, other versions of this Sonata also offer more range and subtlety of expression. Take for instance the interpretation of Heinrich Schiff and Till Fellner on Philips where the latter’s impeccable Mozartian piano touch adds real clarity without sacrificing the music’s explosive changes of mood. In the more emotionally elusive C major Sonata (Op. 102 No. 1), once again Kliegel and Tichman are particularly effective in projecting the volatile nature of the A minor Allegro vivace and the unbuttoned humour of the finale. Perhaps Kliegel is too self-conscious in the Sonata’s opening, trying to invest the music with added expression when Beethoven seems to imply an almost childlike simplicity. This quality is better conveyed in a number of rival recordings, most notably from Schiff and Fellner and the Czech duo of Josef Chuchro and Jan Panenka (Supraphon). Erik Levi

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