Cello Sonatas Nos 1-5; Variations on ‘See the conquering hero comes’, WoO 45; Variations on ‘Bei Männern, welche Liebe fühlen, WoO 46; Variations on ‘Ein Mädchen oder Weibchen’, Op. 66
Ori Epstein (cello), Imri Epstein (piano)
Linn Records CKD 627 70.50 mins
Beethoven’s five cello sonatas neatly demarcate his early, middle and late periods. The brothers Ori and Omri Epstein offer some fine and thoroughly musical performances, marred only by a few puzzling idiosyncrasies.
Particularly successful are their graceful performance of the variations on ‘Ein Mädchen oder Weibchen’ from The Magic Flute; and their intense account of the opening movement of the G minor Sonata, Op. 5 No. 2 with both repeats observed, making the piece last fully 20 minutes. But the sonata’s second movement is too laid-back – an easy-going Allegretto, rather than the prescribed Allegro. In the finale of the Op. 69 Sonata the exaggeratedly long pause before starting the second subject is puzzling; and the corresponding subject in the opening movement of the D major Sonata Op. 102 No. 2 almost grinds to a halt with expressive overload. The Epsteins are again dangerously slow in the quiet new fugal countersubject which appears halfway through the finale of the same sonata, but their performance of the brooding slow movement is impressively atmospheric. The recorded balance between the two instruments is ideal.
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