Already having won considerable acclaim for her Dvořák
and Elgar concerto recordings for Naxos, cellist Maria Kliegel
teams up with pianist Nina Tichmann for a delightful foray into
chamber music with this outstanding first instalment of Beethoven’s
complete works for cello and piano. Regrettably, the master
from Bonn left us with relatively few actual sonatas for the cello,
but the oeuvre is nicely appended by sets of variations,
and a transcription of a sonata originally written for horn.
Beethoven’s sonatas are early examples of a then-new
trend in sonata composition in which the piano and the solo instrument
act as equal partners. Opus 5 was first heard on a concert tour
of 1796 that followed a route similar to a 1789 journey made by
Mozart. He and the cellist Jean-Pierre Dupont, teacher to Friedrich
Wilhelm II and nephew of Frederick the Great was Beethoven’s collaborator.
The works so impressed the king that he rewarded the young composer
with a golden snuffbox filled with Louis d’or. Mozart’s incredibly
popular German opera Die Zauberflöte had been staged
in Vienna in 1791 and provided the thematic material for Beethoven’s
set of variations on the duet "Bei Männern, welche
Liebe fühlen" (When men fall in love) from 1801.
Kliegel and Tichmann are a duo with which to
be reckoned in these splendid sparkling performances. Ms. Kliegel’s
warm rich tone and clear articulation in faster passages is coupled
with a fine sense of cantabile and line. She also has a good feeling
for structure and pacing, and is able to keep the long opening
movements of the two Opus 5 sonatas interesting and focused. Nina
Tichman is no mere accompanist, but a partner with an excellent
ear for counterpoint. Flawless passagework is further enhanced
by her touch at the keyboard, which is at the same time lush and
Naxos have produced a fine sounding disc here.
The sound is ambient and warm and the balance between instruments
is just right. Keith Anderson’s notes are their customary shade
of excellent, striking just the right balance between historical
background and analysis of the music itself. This is a disc not
to be missed.