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Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Music for Cello and Piano, Volume 2

Variations (12) in F on "Ein Mädchen oder Weibchen" from Mozartís opera Die Zauberflöte, Op.66 (1796)
Sonata in E flat major for cello and piano, Op.64 (Arrangement of String Trio, Op.3)
Sonata No.3 in A major for cello and piano, Op.69 (1807-08)
Maria Kliegel, cello
Nina Tichman, piano
Recorded Clara Wieck Auditorium, December 2001
NAXOS 8.555786 [77:09]

Comparisons: du Pré/Barenboim (EMI) and Harrell/Ashkenazy (Decca)

This is the second volume of a planned series of Beethovenís music for cello and piano performed by Maria Kliegel and Nina Tichman. The first release contains the two Beethoven Op. 5 cello sonatas. Although fairly young, both Kliegel and Tichman have many recordings to their credit. Most of Kliegelís recordings have been for Naxos and include the works of Beethoven, Brahms, DvořŠk, Elgar, Shostakovich and Schnittke. Tichman has recorded the complete piano works of Copland and Debussy in addition to a disc of works for clarinet and piano by Reger.

The unusual work on the program is the Op. 64 sonata, which is an arrangement of Beethovenís Op. 3 string trio. Although possibly arranged by Beethoven himself, there is no concrete evidence proving authorship. Regardless, the arrangement is completely faithful to the spirit of the String Trio, and I must say that it is a nice change of pace to hear the work played by cello and piano. The performances by Kliegel and Tichman are fetching, and I especially like the rhythmic sway they give the 2nd Menuetto of this six-movement work.

The Variations in F is not among the more substantial of Beethovenís early pieces. Light and exuberant, only the 10th and 11th Variations offer deeply poignant and serious refrains. Kliegel and Tichman deliver an exceptional performance with abundant energy and enthusiasm. Given their great exuberance, the contrast with the two serious movements is particularly note-worthy.

By far, the most significant work on the program is the Op. 69 Sonata where Kliegel and Tichman are outstanding. I find that the most compelling aspect of Beethovenís cello sonatas is their blend of rugged determination and sparkling charm/poetry. No version of Op. 69 displays these characteristics better than the Kliegel. Both she and Tichman give big-boned readings that are lean, detailed, and propulsive when required. Most important, their degree of Viennese poetry is also at peak level, resulting in an exquisite reading of fine contrasts.

The 1st Movement Allegro of Op. 69 covers half the workís length and contains a heroic element that Kliegel and Tichman mine thoroughly and in enticing fashion. The 2nd Movement is a Scherzo in A minor that switches back to A major in the Trio; Kliegel drives the Scherzo forward with great determination and flair. The slow movement is very short and essentially represents an introduction to the Allegro vivace (IV) that is unabashedly optimistic and playful.

Overall, this new Naxos offering holds up very well to the comparison recordings mentioned above. Usually, I could add the benefit of advantageous pricing to a Naxos release. However, the fact is that both the du Pre and Harrell sets of the Cello Sonatas cost substantially less than the final figure for the Naxos recordings once the cycle of five sonatas is completed. Kliegel and Tichman do have the advantage of exceptional modern sound, and their disc is highly recommended. Once they have fully traversed Beethovenís music for cello and piano, their recordings will likely be among the best on record.

Don Satz

see also review by Leon Bosch

see Kevin Sutton's review of Volume 1


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