Beethoven: Complete Works for Cello and Piano

Robin Michael cello, Daniel Tong fortepiano
148:08 (2 CDs in a single jewel case)
resonus RES10254

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These effervescent accounts of Beethoven’s five cello sonatas and three sets of variations, two based on themes from Mozart’s Magic Flute and a third based on “See the Conquering Hero Comes” from Handel’s Judas Maccabaeus, make a marvellous two-CD set. Both Michael and Tong are natural beethovenians and bring out the wit, lyricism and intelligence of some of Beethoven’s finest chamber music. I have sat through a live performance on modern instruments of the five sonatas, split into two recitals (afternoon and evening) and was made increasingly aware of the shortcomings of modern instrument performances of Beethoven, as the dense lefthand work on the piano tended to blur into a wall of sound. This is instantly solved by the 1805 Walter copy fortepiano, played here by Daniel Tong, which delineates beautifully the busy bass passages, while adding a silvery lightness to the upper range. I think too that Robin Michael’s 1695 Goffriller copy overcomes the other problem for modern instrument players, the tendency for the cello to ‘over-resonate’ in certain ranges, which is fine for later romantic repertoire, but tends to ‘clog up’ classical music. The lovely clean sound of these period instrument accounts is partly a testimony to these lovely instruments, but also of course to the skills of the players, both of whom also play modern instruments, but who have adapted their techniques admirably to bring out the best from these instruments. Anyone who doesn’t know the Beethoven cello sonatas is in for a treat, but I was also surprised by how much I enjoyed the variations sets. I am not a natural lover of Beethoven’s variations – indeed the set for piano trio on Ich bin der Schneider Kakadu is one of my all-time concert pet hates – but these translucent accounts won me over.

D. James Ross

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