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Track(s) taken from CDA67981/2

Cello Sonata in F major, Op 5 No 1

1796; Berlin; first performed by Jean-Louis Duport and Beethoven in early 1797 at the court of Friedrich Wilhelm II, in whose honour it was written; published by Artaria in 1797

Steven Isserlis (cello), Robert Levin (fortepiano)
Studio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available
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Recording details: December 2012
Henry Wood Hall, London, United Kingdom
Produced by Jens Braun
Engineered by Simon Eadon
Release date: January 2014
Total duration: 24 minutes 1 seconds

Cover artwork: Photograph of cello scroll by Christopher Martyn

Other recordings available for download

Melvyn Tan (fortepiano), Anthony Pleeth (cello)
Daniel Müller-Schott (cello), Angela Hewitt (piano)


'Isserlis has the theme but Levin is no mere accompanist, fastidious in his role as a partner yet one who never overwhelms the cello, even in the chords and roulades during a brief spell of agitation towards the end of this introduction … try Allegro ma non tanto, Op 69 … we're back to expressive flexibility, and we stay with individuals who speak as corporate souls. Tenderness to turbulence, the frames of mind or spirit alter and are neither ignored nor glossed over. Instead they are profoundly felt and candidly declared' (Gramophone)» More

'This set contains some of the finest Beethoven performances you are likely to hear. Steven Isserlis is on blazing form: every note lives, every movement is characterised with infectious relish; his range is breathtaking. The ensemble with Robert Levin is dynamic, intimate, often electric. There’s a sense of two powerful minds intensely engaged in Beethoven's dialogue … at its best, it’s unbeatable: highlights include a crazily impetuous finale to the Sonata Op 5 No. 1; Sonata Op 5 No 2’s limping introduction; a radiant opening to Op 69 which ends in an Allegro vivace of festive fire; the dreamy wildness of Op 102 No 1's ‘improvised’ slow movement and a Op 102 No 2 of tragic violence' (BBC Music Magazine)» More

'This remarkable set contains probably the most significant recordings of these masterpieces ever issued … Steven Isserlis is not one to force his personality upon everything he plays, with the result that all such music has a similar patina of expression, and in the Op. 5 Sonatas he plavs a perfect role to Levin’s more significant part, yet at all times he infuses the cello line with character and a full tone which makes a perfect complement to the inherent musical argument … These great masterpieces receive splendid accounts from these masterly musicians and the three lighter sets of variations find Beethoven and his instrumentalists in less profound mood. They are most winningly performed … The recorded quality and instrumental balance are first-class, as we have invariably come to expect from this company' (International Record Review)» More

'Beethoven's five cello sonatas … sum up a dazzling career. In the hands of Steven Isserlis, a great champion of these pieces, here accompanied on fortepiano by Robert Levin, they jump off the musical history page with an irresistible energy and then dance around the room … Levin's fortepiano playing lends frankness, high colour and tenderness by turn' (The Independent on Sunday)» More

'The music drama deserves the duo's strong emotions, firm accenting and virile leaps. Levin supplies his own muscular music-making … there's hushed delicacy too, just as there is in Isserlis's cello when Beethoven chooses to relax. Try, for example, the gravely affecting adagio of Op 102 No 2' (The Times)» More

'Isserlis brings great freshness and vigour to Beethoven’s complete works for cello and keyboard. Levin's fortepiano is an ideal match, with a sinuous, intimate sound well captured by Hyperion's microphones. Recommended' (Classical Music)

'No matter how familiar you are with this music, there are tens of fine recordings already, you need this one, and it would be a yardstick starting-point. Isserlis and Levin’s performances represent pure musical enjoyment and revelations (surprises and shocks) from start to finish' (ClassicalSource.com)» More

'Musicien remarquable et savant, fin connaisseur des classiques viennois, interprète rompu aux instruments d'époque, Robert Levin est-il pour autant le partenaire idéal de Steven Isserlis … sommet d'inspiration, la Sonate op.69 (1807-1808) bénéficie d'une lecture nerveuse, concentrée, d'une belle musicalité, qui ne le cède en énergie, en âpreté, en modelé qu'aux plus grandes versions sur instruments modernes' (Diapason, France)» More

'Robert Levin et Steven Isserlis parviennent en effet dans les Sonates op. 5 à un équilibre sonore naturel leur permettant d’associer la verve classique et la liberté pré-romantique présentes dans ces deux partitions de jeunesse. On perçoit également parfaitement comme le style beethovénien s’affirme dans la Sonate op. 69, comme l’écriture se dessine et se structure, en une véritable fête permanente et perpétuellement attrayante. Il ne faudrait toutefois pas penser que l’on assiste à une conférence esthétique : au contraire, cette justesse de propos doit sa réussite à l’enthousiasme des deux musiciens qui parviennent brillamment à dégager de chaque mesure une âme musicale convaincante, à l’image de la Sonate op. 102 no 1' (Classica, France)

The two Sonatas of Op 5 were written in 1796 while Beethoven was in Berlin. He had travelled from Vienna to Prague in February of that year with the intention of returning to Vienna within a few weeks. But, as he wrote to his brother Nikolaus, he was ‘getting on well – very well. My art is winning for me friends and respect’. This success led him to extend his tour, continuing by way of Dresden and Leipzig to Berlin, where he arrived in May. In later years Beethoven recalled his stay there fondly, as recorded by his pupil Ferdinand Ries:

At the court of King Frederic Wilhelm II he played the two grand sonatas with obbligato violoncello, Op 5, written for [Jean-Pierre] Duport, the King’s first violoncellist, and himself. On his departure he received a gold snuff-box filled with louis d’ors. Beethoven declared with pride that it was not an ordinary snuff-box, but one that it might have been customary to give to an ambassador.

The King, like his uncle Frederick the Great, was a cultivated musician, a cellist for whom Mozart had composed his ‘Prussian’ String Quartets only six years earlier. His influence on the musical life of Berlin was powerful, encouraging the performance of operas by Gluck and Mozart, among other pioneering work, and it seems possible that he offered Beethoven the vacant position of Kapellmeister on the basis of the Cello Sonatas dedicated to him. But the King died the following year, before he could persuade Beethoven, who had anyway since returned to Vienna. Beethoven performed the Sonatas for the first time in Vienna early in 1797 at a concert given with the cellist Bernhard Romberg, a former colleague from the Bonn court orchestra who was passing through the Austrian capital on his way north from Italy. By this time, Beethoven had prepared the sonatas for publication; they were advertised by the firm of Artaria in the Wiener Zeitung in February 1797.

The F major Sonata, Op 5 No 1, has only two movements, though both are quite substantial, the first introduced by an Adagio sostenuto that is almost a movement in its own right. It gradually unfolds from arpeggios on the common chord of F major, an idea that is also present in the first subject of the main Allegro, a dolce melody on the piano that is soon repeated on the cello. An extensive bridge passage, dominated by off-beat accents, leads to the fragmentary second subject group in the dominant: semiquaver scales run into a staccato passage on the piano alone before the cello enters with a more melodic idea and the codetta makes way for the wide-ranging development section. The recapitulation is a straightforward restatement of the opening section, but the coda is extended by the interpolation of a short Adagio passage (unrelated to the introduction) and a similarly brief Presto section of dominant preparation to the concluding affirmation of F major. The second and final movement is a rondo in 6/8 time with a main theme that makes much play out of a rhythmic displacement between the two instruments.

from notes by Matthew Rye © 1996

La sonate en fa majeur Op 5 nº1 ne comporte que deux mouvements, mais substantiels – le premier étant introduit par un Adagio sostenuto qui est presque en lui-même un mouvement. La pièce se déploie graduellement à partir d’arpèges sur l’accord parfait en fa majeur, une idée déjà présente dans le premier thème de l’Allegro principal, mélodie dolce au piano, bientôt reprise au violoncelle. Un vaste pont, dominé par des accents sur les temps faibles, conduit au groupe fragmentaire du second thème, dans la dominante: des gammes de doubles croches courent sur le piano seul, dans un passage staccato, avant que le violoncelle entre avec une idée plus mélodique et que la codetta cède la place à une ample section de développement. La reprise est une pure répétition de la section initiale, à ceci près que la coda est prolongée par l’interpolation d’un court passage Adagio (sans rapport avec l’introduction) et d’une section Presto identiquement brève de la préparation de la dominante à l’affirmation conclusive en fa majeur. Le second et dernier mouvement est un rondo dans une mesure à six-huit, avec un thème principal qui joue beaucoup d’un déplacement rythmique entre les deux instruments.

extrait des notes rédigées par Matthew Rye © 1996
Français: Hypérion

Die Sonate in F-Dur, Op 5, Nr. 1, besteht aus nur zwei Sätzen, die allerdings beide recht umfassend sind. Der erste wird von einem Adagio sostenuto eingeleitet, das in sich selbst beinahe ein Satz ist. In seinen Arpeggios offenbart es nach und nach den Dreiklang in F-Dur, eine Idee, die auch im ersten Thema des Allegro vorhanden ist, einer dolce Melodie auf dem Klavier, die schon bald vom Cello wiederholt wird. Eine umfangreiche, akzentuierte Übergangspassage, die von Auftakten dominiert wird, führt dann zur fragmentarischen zweiten Themengruppe auf der Dominante: Skalen von Sechzehntelnoten laufen in eine allein auf dem Klavier gespielte Staccatopassage über, ehe das Cello mit einer mehr melodischen Idee einsetzt, und die Codetta einer umfassenden Durchführung weicht. Die Reprise ist eine unkomplizierte Bestätigung des einleitenden Abschnittes, jedoch ist die Coda durch das Einflechten einer kurzen Adagiopassage (ohne Verbindung zur Einleitung) erweitert, und ein ähnlich kurzer Prestoabschnitt auf der Dominante bereitet die abschließende Bestätigung der Tonart F-Dur vor. Der zweite und letzte Satz ist ein Rondo im Sechsachteltakt, dessen Hauptmelodie viel Aufhebens von den rhythmischen Verschiebungen zwischen den beiden Instrumenten macht.

aus dem Begleittext von Matthew Rye © 1996
Deutsch: Ute Mansfeldt

Other albums featuring this work

Beethoven: Cello Sonatas, Vol. 1
Beethoven: Complete Cello Music
CDD220042CDs Dyad (2 for the price of 1) — Archive Service

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