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CD Review

Ludwig van Beethoven

Cello Sonatas & Variations

  • Sonatas #1 & 2, Op. 5 (1796)
  • Sonata #3, Op. 69 (1808)
  • Sonatas #4 & 5, Op. 102 (1815)
  • 12 Variations on "Ein Mädchen oder Weibchen", Op. 66 (1798)
  • 12 Variations on "See, the Conqu'ring Hero Comes", WoO. 45 (1797)
  • 7 Variations on "Bei Mannern, welche Liebe fuhlen", WoO. 46 (1801)
Joel Krosnick, cello
Gilbert Kalish, piano
Arabesque Z6656 2CDs 145:04
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Can there be a new and exciting way to present these popular cello sonatas, one that is not precious, bombastic, or utterly earthshaking? I believe there is. Here is the winning ensemble of Joel Krosnick and Gilbert Kalish, who have been playing these pieces together for years during the holiday season. It shows.

I gave this set the Sonata #2 test. If the performance can tell me something new about this extremely popular piece, then you should buy it. Happy to report, it does. Krosnick and Kalish perform this and the other four sonatas with restraint when needed, tenderness and furor when indicated, and subtlety above the call of duty. In the first movement of the Cello Sonata #1, for example, both performers respect Beethoven's abrupt and persnickety changes in volume and tempo by not drawing attention to them. Neither artist grandstands; both simply do the work they are paid to and do it well. As an extra bonus, Arabesque has included the "Twelve Variations on a Theme from Handel's Judas Maccabeus," which is also performed with a furious range of feeling. The "Seven Variations on 'Bel Mannern welche Liebe fuhlen' from Mozart's The Magic Flute" are charming pieces and show how much Beethoven admired the man he met only once. If that isn't enough, Arabesque has also included the "Twelve Variations on 'Ein Mädchen oder Weibchen' from Mozart's The Magic Flute," again most competantly performed. A booklet with a in-depth preceptive essay by Perry Goldstein rounds off this splendid collection, the best I've heard since Rostropovich. This is a disc set you'll want to own and show off to your friends.

Copyright © 1996, Peter Bates