With this disc, Maria
Kliegel and Nina Tichmann complete their
survey of Beethoven’s music for cello
and piano. The two previous volumes
have received very warm reviews (see
links below) and this final offering
maintains the highest artistic standards.
and 5th Cello Sonatas are
intermittently grand but often enigmatic
works; their spirit is well captured
on these recordings. In the 4th
Sonata, Maria Kliegel maximizes the
contrast between the beautifully reflective
slow introduction and subsequent allegro
with a very forthright approach to the
latter. Later on she continues to master
the awkward transitions, finding humour
in the opening bars of the finale before
playing the more serious sections with
great passion. Her performance of the
5th sonata comes from the
same mould and is convincing throughout.
The slow movement is the highlight –
long-breathed and with just the right
degree of melancholy. Nina Tichman’s
contribution is invariably sympathetic.
As reviews of the previous
discs in this series have indicated,
these accounts of the sonatas can be
considered alongside the very best.
Comparing these new renditions with
Harrell and Ashkenazy (recorded by Decca
in 1987), I found it hard to choose
between them. Both in approach and recorded
sound, Harrell’s recordings seem rather
mellower but is this an advantage or
not? I also re-listened to Rostropovich
and Richter in the sonatas and found
them marginally most convincing of all.
Their recordings were made in 1962-3
but the sound is perfectly acceptable.
Ultimately, which of
these artists to choose may depend on
the appeal of the additional works.
Rostropovich’s Philips Duo set of the
sonatas includes all three sets of variations
played by Maurice Gendron and Jean Françaix.
Harrell’s set has the Horn Sonata (played
by Barry Tuckwell) as an odd and only
coupling. In Volume 1 of her series,
Kliegel plays that work in an arrangement
for the cello. Each of her three discs
has one of the sets of variations and
Volume 2 has an arrangement of Beethoven’s
Opus 3 string trio for cello and piano.
This new disc concludes with another
rarity, the Duet with two obbligato
eyeglasses. The humorous title derives
from the poor eyesight of the dedicatee,
Nikolaus Zmeskall von Domanovecz, an
amateur cellist and friend of the composer.
Like many of Beethoven’s "works
without opus", it is attractive
but hardly a masterpiece. Tabea Zimmermann’s
viola blends well with Kliegel’s cello
and this is worth a hearing. The Judas
Maccabeus variations are also well
done, the grandeur of original theme
being prominent and foreshadowing an
approach which is maintained through
all twelve variations.
The cello is slightly
closely balanced but the recorded sound
is otherwise excellent, and there is
good documentation. Collectors of the
first two volumes have no reason to
hesitate in completing the set. If you
are starting your collection of Beethoven’s
cello music the Naxos discs offer no
price advantage (rather a slight disadvantage
over the other sets mentioned because
three discs are required). In this field,
there are also other bargain sets around
(e.g. du Pré and Barenboim) but
Kliegel and Tichman should not be overlooked.
Patrick C Waller
Link to review of Volume 1: http://www.musicweb-international.com/classrev/2003/May03/BEETHOVEN_sonatas_naxos.htm
Link to review of Volume 2:
Link to review of Harrell/Ashkenazy