Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Cello Sonata in F major, Op. 5 No. 1 (1796) [24:14]
Cello Sonata in G minor, Op. 5 No. 2 (1796) [22:50]
Cello Sonata in A major, Op. 69 (1808) [28:19]
Cello Sonata in C major, Op. 102 No. 1 (1815) [15:47]
Cello Sonata in D major, Op. 102 No. 2 (1815) [22:04]
Variations in G major on See the conqu’ring hero comes from Handel’s Judas Maccabaeus WoO45 (1796) [12:49]
Variations in F major on Ein Mädchen oder Weibchen from Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte Op. 66 (1798) [11:00]
Variations in E flat major on Bei Männern, welche Liebe fühlen from Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte WoO46 (1801) [10:29]
Ludwig Hoelscher (cello)
Elly Ney (piano)
rec. Lichterfelder Festsäle, Berlin, 1957
FORGOTTEN RECORDS FR501/02 [77:26 + 71:21]
Elly Ney (1882-1968) and Ludwig Hoelscher (1907-1996) recorded all the Beethoven cello sonatas and the three sets of variations for cello and piano in 1957, in Berlin. Both by then were veterans of the recording studios, and their own duo had been in existence for over two decades. Hoelscher had also been an integral member of her piano quartet, with its various fiddle players, and had made a couple of fine 78 sets.
Ney was at her height in the 1930s and Hoelscher too played with great tonal resources in this decade. By the later 1950s, Ney - though now in her mid-70s - was still in pretty good fettle, much better than she was when, in the 1960s, and technically compromised through old age, she embarked on a mammoth recording schedule (see review). Hoelscher, though only fifty, had lost the tonal warmth that illuminated his earlier recordings. He only intermittently re-found it. I’ve reviewed a sonata disc issued by Forgotten Records in which he is partnered by Hans Richter-Haaser; the Brahms sonata is not good, the youthful Strauss a considerable improvement.
These Ney-accompanied Beethoven performances show both the good, and the less good, side of Hoelscher. His tone is now somewhat pinched, and occasionally he and Ney make some odd tempo decisions. The opening movement of the Op.5 No.1 sonata, for example, is very deliberate, and its deliberation never really leads to expressive depth - merely a kind of lassitude. Elsewhere however tempo decisions seem spot on. The Scherzo of Op.69 is not too heavily done; in fact it’s pleasingly accomplished. The ensemble is predictably excellent and the seriousness of the endeavour not to be underestimated. These are serious-minded, musically accomplished performances. As ensemble performances they are actually better than the technically superior, though mismatched duo team of Piatigorsky and Solomon, who were brought together to record the set - Piatigorsky and Hess would have been a better fit. But in terms of dextrousness and tonal breadth, they are not really in the same class as the Fournier-Schnabel recordings, or indeed the remakes that the French cellist made with one of Ney’s German successors, Wilhelm Kempff.
Nevertheless I applaud the return of these performances to the catalogue in this way in unproblematic transfers, and as is customary from this source, no notes - only web links for further information. Bayer has certainly re-released at least three of these sonata performances on disc; Opp. 69, 102/1 and 102/2 [Bayer 2228768] but I’ve not had access to them for comparative purposes. In any case these ex-Telefunken LPs are heard in their entirety here.
I applaud the return of these performances to the catalogue in this way in unproblematic transfers.