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Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770 - 1827)
The Sonatas for cello and piano.
Cello Sonata No 1 in F Major. Op 5 no 1 [24.58]
Cello Sonata no 2 in G Minor. Op 5 no 2 [24.59]
Cello Sonata No 3 in A Major. Op 69 [27.22]
Cello Sonata No 4 in C Major. Op102 no 1 [14.55]
Cello Sonata No 5 in D Major. Op 102 no 2 [20.25]
Horn Sonata in F Major. Op 17* [12.10]
Lynn Harrell (cello), Barry Tuckwell (horn)*,Vladimir Ashkenazt (piano)
Recorded St. Barnabas Church, London Sept 1984 (Cello Sonatas), Kingsway Hall, London. December 1974 (Horn Sonata)DDD / ADD*
DOUBLE DECCA 466 733-2 [125.23]
 Amazon UK

With the reluctance or inability of the bigger recording labels to make new recordings these days, their bread and butter comes from the re-releasing of products of earlier years. Such is the case with this CD which dates in the main from 1984 and was favourably reviewed at that time when compared to the then current bench-mark issue by Rostropovich and Richter. Subsequently it seems to have gone into the recording industry's limbo-land. There is no reference with the disc to re-mastering so the CD will be as originally released.

The five sonatas are played in the correct sequence. The Opus 5 pair dates from 1796 when Beethoven had written his B Flat Piano Concerto and some String Trios but was then essentially known as a keyboard performer rather than a composer. The two works reflect this with the prominence of the piano writing typified by the extended cadanza near the end of the long Allegro section of No 1. Both have slow introductions leading to lengthy Allegro sections and Rondo finales and the partnership's expressive playing with the feeling of freshness and spontaneity are irresistible.

The A Major Sonata, Op 69 is from 1807 and the composer has moved on - he was concurrently writing his Fifth Symphony. It is a magnificent work, full of lyricism in the outer movements and the brief, beautifully contemplative Adagio cantabile that follows the drive of the Scherzo. The two late sonatas (from 1815) show Beethoven about to enter his last, great period of creativity. No 1 of the Opus 102 pairing has an unusual layout with a five section, two movement format which has slow introductions to quick movements. This juxtaposition at the first change from Andante to Allegro is as striking as almost anything else Beethoven wrote, calling for a frantic change of mood. A tiny Adagio leads to the contrapuntal Finale. The last of the five, Op 102 / 2 has the conventional three movements and is the only one of the set that has a real slow movement - a truly intense and soul-searching Adagio that leads to the complex fugue of the Finale.

The filler on the pair of CD's is the Horn Sonata in F with Barry Tuckwell as a most engaging partner to Ashenazy.

It is difficult to find anything adverse to say about this release. Great music - certainly in the last three Sonatas - an excellent recording and a two soloists who are quite magnificent, individually or in tandem. Lynn Harrell has a splendid tone and a feeling for lyricism that always impresses, and his phrasing is sensitive and controlled. Ashkenazy, here - as ever - has a feeling for what lies behind the printed pages that denotes the true artist far more than merely superb technical skills ever do. In works like these their playing as a pair is what matter and it is exemplary.

Highly recommended on all counts.


Harry Downey


Harry Downey

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