An expressiveness that borders on the sublime.
Charlotte Gardner 2008-11-28
Angela Hewitt has created such a storm with her Complete Bach performances that we're almost in danger of forgetting her talents in other musical areas. This is the first volume of a partnership with the young cellist Daniel Muller-Schott to record Beethoven's complete cello sonatas, and it is musical matchmaking at its best. With Hewitt's controlled elegance and emotional penetration, and Muller-schott’s expressiveness and technical virtuosity, the pair separately and together represents the perfect balance of head and heart in performance.
The two opus 5 sonatas were written in 1796, when the cello was still seen very much as the keeper of the bass line with little potential as a soloist. Beethoven was a young man who was still very much in need of powerful patrons to make his financial way in the world, so when Beethoven was introduced to King Friedrich Wilhelm II of Prussia, a keen cellist for whom Mozart and Haydn had already written works for, he was out to impress. Whilst his two musical predecessors had simply composed string quartets with prominent cello parts, Beethoven made the musically audacious move of writing sonatas for piano and cello in which each instrument had equal prominence. It must have felt like Christmas had come early for King Wilhelm. Beethoven had the additional problem of balance – the cello of his day with its gut strings was much softer than the constantly-developing piano with its increasing capacity for volume. Beethoven solved the problem by sharing the melody between the two instruments. Muller-Schott and Hewitt evidently aimed to remain equal partners as Beethoven intended; their awareness of balance is evident in the intelligent sympathy with which they switch from melody-carrier to accompanist. Consequently it is a shame that occasionally the recording levels, to my ears at least, weight the cello over the piano when the keyboard has the melody. The Opus 69 Cello Sonata, written in 1808 at the height of Beethoven's ''heroic” period'' is a well-chosen contrast of style. The whole recital is characterised by exquisite phrasing, clean lines and, best of all, an expressiveness that borders on the sublime.