Beethoven: Works for cello and piano

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COMPOSERS: Beethoven
WORKS: Cello Sonata in D, Op. 102, No. 2; Seven Variations in E flat on the theme ‘Bei Männern’; Violin Sonata in A, Op. 47 (Kreutzer) (arr. Czerny)
PERFORMER: Ivan Monighetti (cello), Pavel Gililov (piano)

Ivan Monighetti and Pavel Gililov open this fine release with a wonderfully characterised and highly engaging performance of the early Bei Männern Variations. Both players respond with charm and humour to the music’s contrasting moods. The D major Sonata, Op. 102 No. 2, is equally impressive, particularly in the Finale where Monighetti and Gililov achieve a carefully negotiated build-up of tension driving the densely contrapuntal musical argument towards an exhilarating conclusion. I’m less taken with their approach to the first movement. Although there’s no doubting the conviction with which Monighetti shapes the melodic line, his tendency to force the tone and employ indulgent rubato in certain passages seems mannered.
Fortunately no such interpretative idiosyncrasies mar the performance of the Czerny cello transcription of the Kreutzer Sonata, a rarity that only boasts one rival recording in the current catalogue. Frustratingly the booklet notes offer no information as to when the arrangement was published or even whether it was done with the composer’s blessing. Having never heard this arrangement before, I was initially sceptical as to the effectiveness of transferring a work so closely associated with violin to the lower tessitura of the cello. But Monighetti sweeps away any lingering doubts. The cruelly exposed opening unaccompanied chords are mellifluously poetic rather than awkward, and in the ensuing Presto Monighetti imbues the cello part with sufficient demonic energy to match the piano. The Finale, taken at a more leisurely pace than is normal in the violin version, nonetheless convinces. Erik Levi