Beethoven: Cello Sonata in F; Cello Sonata in A

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COMPOSERS: Beethoven
LABELS: NAIVE
ALBUM TITLE: Beethoven cello sonatas
WORKS: Cello Sonata in F; Cello Sonata in A
PERFORMER: Anne GastinelFrancois Frederic Guy
CATALOGUE NO: V 4995
The virtues of these performances are evident from the very start of the F major Sonata. There’s an absolute unanimity of phrasing and articulation between Anne Gastinel and François-Frédéric Guy in those searching arpeggios. The give and take between the instruments in the ensuing dialogue seems perfectly mapped out, bringing a delightful Mozartian grace to both the Allegro and the Rondo. Throughout this beautifully engineered disc, the overriding objective seems to be to let the music speak for itself, a tactic that works particularly well in the three sets of variations which emerge here as far more substantial offerings than is often the case.

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Comparing Gastinel and Guy with the formidable recorded competition that already exists in this repertoire is another matter. Many of the finest performers manage to extract even more from the music, as is immediately apparent, for example, in the introductory Adagio sostenuto from the F major Sonata in the Philips recording from Heinrich Schiff and Till Fellner. Although one gets the same precision of ensemble as from Gastinel and Guy, Schiff in particular breathes far greater life and colour into the long melodic phrases, pinpointing the unexpected shifts in tonality and sudden eruptions in dynamics with a more vivid sense of drama. By contrast Gastinel and Guy seem a little bland and almost too deferential to the score, seemingly unwilling to take risks. Basically it’s the difference between a performance that is wholly admirable and one that is revelatory. Erik Levi