Beethoven Cello Sonatas, etc

Author: 
Christopher Headington

Beethoven Cello Sonatas, etc

  • Sonata for Cello and Piano No. 1
  • Sonata for Cello and Piano No. 2
  • Sonata for Cello and Piano No. 3
  • Sonata for Cello and Piano No. 4
  • Sonata for Cello and Piano No. 5
  • (12) Variations on Mozart's 'Ein Mädchen oder We
  • (7) Variations on Mozart's 'Bei Männern, welche
  • Variations on 'See the conqu'ring hero comes' from

A case of deja entendu here, since I reviewed these performances when they originally came out. I enjoyed them then and still do, for both artists offer wit, affection and agility. One can at times think the sheer force and passion of Martha Argerich's personality a bit too obvious, not least in the C major Sonata, where Maisky characteristically sounds smoother and more persuasive. Her contribution to the playful finale of the G minor, which she opens, is kittenishly mannered, claws and all, in a way that one may question despite the deftness of her playing; throughout this movement, as sometimes elsewhere, it is Mischa Maisky who sounds the more natural Beethovenian, and one wishes that his pianist did not feel the need to make us register every sforzando or staccato marking. However, these performances are always stimulating and both instruments are very well recorded, the piano placed (of necessity, I suspect) somewhat backwardly in relation to the cello but never overshadowed. Indeed, Maisky is embarrassingly swamped by Argerich's thunderous left-hand octaves in the passage at 7'08'' in the first movement of the A major Sonata.
The three sets of variations are early pieces (the last, WoO46, dates from 1801) and more conventional than the Op. 18 string quartets and the contemporary piano sonatas, but Maisky and Argerich make the most of their faded rococo charms and these performances bring many a smile to the face.
Collectors wishing for a more inward-looking approach to the sonatas, especially the late pair of Op. 102, may well consider the mid-price alternative account of all this music by Jacqueline du Pre and Daniel Barenboim, recorded by the BBC at the 1970 Edinburgh Festival. This earned JOC's praise in these pages for its thoughtfulness as well as its ''spontaneity and sparkle''. One has to endure coughing from the audience, but applause has been omitted.'

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