Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Seven Variations in E flat major on theme Bei Männern, welche Liebe fühlen from the opera The Magic Flute by Mozart for cello and piano, WoO 46 (1801) [9:43]
Kreutzer Sonata in A major, Op.47 (1802-03), arr. for cello and piano by Karl Czerny [40:50]
Sonata in D major for cello and piano, Op.102 No.2 (1815) [21:03]
Ivan Monighetti (cello), Pavel Gililov (piano)
rec. September 2008, Witold Lutoslawski Polish Radio Concert Studio, Warsaw. DDD
DUX 0704 [71:37]

Beethoven’s music can serve as the basis for the perfect “motivation tape”. This disc will surely raise your spirits. The music is full of optimism, and this performance is fittingly buoyant. Monighetti and Gililov present a high-voltage reading from two strong voices: Gililov’s piano sound is round and concentrated, Monighetti’s cello is generous and radiant. Intonation is characterised by a sense of natural breathing and perfect articulation.

The disc opens with the Bei Männern Variations. The composer is as inventive as ever, and the music is bright and diverse. The more transparent pages are Mozartean – Classical, not Romantic. But the stubborn, Ländlerish stomp of the final variation is unmistakably Beethoven. The musicians play with lively tempi and faultless balance.

Karl Czerny arranged the Kreutzer for cello – and we get a bloody good cello sonata! The difference is apparent, especially in the first movement, which is no longer as hysterical as the original. Boy, I miss those desperate shrieks from the violin! The cello pictures a sea storm, while the violin had the storm rising to the skies. If in the original version the violin usurped absolute power, here the piano part is the one with the higher pitch, and has greater prominence. In the slow movement the cello part is rather elevated so it loses little in the way of innocent “larkishness”. What the cello can give in return are its warmth and depth, and of these Monighetti shares plenty. The cello is also a more suitable accompanist, when the piano takes the leading role. The viscous slow variation is marvelous, and the quiet afterglow of the last variation is magical. I don’t see a significant variance from the violin version in the last movement – a happy, unstoppable tarantella.

The first movement of Beethoven’s Fifth Cello Sonata is heroic and gallant. That’s the kind of music that Strauss in Don Quixote called “a knightly theme”. The second movement, the only real slow complete episode in Beethoven’s cello sonatas, is marked Adagio con molto sentimento d’affetto, and with good reason. It is lugubrious, yet with a feeling of acceptance. It is similar to the slow movements of Beethoven’s last piano sonatas, but also to another Adagio affettuoso - the sad slow movement of the First Quartet. In contrast, the last movement sounds a bit lacking in emotion. Its intricate fugal development gives more to the brain than to the heart – maybe the performers could add something here. Anyway, it is not so long as to become boring.

The disc is very well recorded, and the cello sound is admirably clean. The liner-note in Polish and English contains an interesting essay on the three works, although I suspect that some of the logic was lost in translation.

Oleg Ledeniov

The music is full of optimism, and the performance is fittingly buoyant.