Beethoven: Complete Works for Piano and Cello: Sonatas Nos 1-5; Variations in G, F & E flat

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Beethoven
LABELS: Telarc
WORKS: Complete Works for Piano and Cello: Sonatas Nos 1-5; Variations in G, F & E flat
PERFORMER: Zuill Bailey (cello), Simone Dinnerstein (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CD 80740

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This recording marks the tenth anniversary of Zuill Bailey and Simone Dinnerstein’s partnership, and it’s certainly a birthday worth celebrating. Their ensemble is almost miraculously tight, seamless and instinctive. The sheer quality of musicianship is up there at the top, but have they anything new to say about these fascinating works? 

Theirs is a largely old-fashioned, full-blooded approach compared with, say, the readings of Anner Bylsma or even Pieter Wispelwey. However, there is no lack of lightness, and phrasing is beautifully detailed.

I loved the youthful ardour and brio in the F major Allegro, and we can truly hear the smiles in the witty Variation sets, and the finales of both A major and C major sonatas. Rhythmic vitality and an arch sense of timing more than make up for lack of swift speeds in fast movements (such as the G minor Allegro). 

The A major Sonata unfolds with authoritative coherence; perhaps more bow articulation would have lightened its irresistible Scherzo. Only in the two late Sonatas Op. 110, I felt not every potential was unlocked. Bailey displays deft bowing in the triplets, and tunes each chord beautifully in the No. 1; and they discover a magic moment of sudden innocence cradled between the crashing accents of the Allegro vivace in its first movement.

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The knotty D major fugue is brilliantly handled, but I missed the really eery, ominous atmosphere in both of these strange Adagios. Overall, highly impressive. Helen Wallace