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Hyperion Records

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Photograph of cello scroll by Christopher Martyn
www.finelystrung.com
Track(s) taken from CDA67981/2
Recording details: December 2012
Henry Wood Hall, London, United Kingdom
Produced by Jens Braun
Engineered by Simon Eadon
Release date: January 2014
Total duration: 26 minutes 57 seconds

'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. Is ‘improvised’ slow movement and a Op 102 No 2 of tragic violence' (BBC Music Magazine) » More
PERFORMANCE
RECORDING

'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
PERFORMANCE
RECORDING

'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)

Cello Sonata in A major, Op 69
composer
sketched in 1807; completed in spring 1808; published by Breitkopf & Härtel in April 1809; dedicated to Count Ignaz von Gleichenstein; first performed in March 1809 by Nikolaus Kraft and Baroness Dorothea von Ertmann

Allegro vivace  [7'28]

Other recordings available for download
Melvyn Tan (fortepiano), Anthony Pleeth (cello)
Daniel Müller-Schott (cello), Angela Hewitt (piano)
Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
The single Sonata of Op 69 was sketched in 1807, some ten years after the Op 5 pair and concurrently with the Fifth Symphony (Op 67). It was completed in the spring of 1808 in Heiligenstadt and contracted to the publishers Breitkopf & Härtel in September, who issued it the following April in an edition full of printer’s errors. The dedication of the Sonata was to Count Ignaz von Gleichenstein, a Secretary at the War Department and a trusted friend of the composer. It had been performed for the first time a month earlier, in March 1809, by the cellist Nikolaus Kraft (the son of Anton Kraft and a member of Schuppanzigh’s famous string quartet) and Baroness Dorothea von Ertmann, one of the greatest of the first generation of Beethoven pianists.

The lyrical A major world of this third Sonata conveys as well as any other work of the period the self-confident mood that Beethoven was in during the latter half of the first decade of the nineteenth century, before his life was disrupted by the French invasion of Vienna in the middle of 1809. The first movement opens rather like the slightly earlier Fourth Piano Concerto (1806) with, in this case, the cello entering softly and unaccompanied with a theme that gradually builds to a short piano flourish, repeated with the roles reversed. A vigorous bridge passage leads to the second subject, a combination of rising scales and downward arpeggios, again repeated with the instrumental roles inverted. The triplets of the bridge return with the codetta to the exposition which is dominated by an attractive idea new to the movement. The development concentrates on the music of the first subject which in a foreshortened form eventually opens the recapitulation, before reappearing at the end of the movement. There follows the only Scherzo of these Sonatas and it is typical of the form as Beethoven developed it during his ‘middle period’ works, with its length approaching that of the outer movements, achieved by repeating the almost waltz-like ‘trio’ between three statements of the syncopated main scherzo theme. The slow introduction to the finale is shorter than those to the first movements of the two earlier sonatas, with more of a cantabile continuity to it. The Allegro vivace recalls the opening of the first ‘Rasumovsky’ String Quartet in both the configuration of its opening theme and in its sunny mood which continues into the restrained second subject where cello and piano alternate short phrases.

from notes by Matthew Rye © 1996


Other albums featuring this work
'Beethoven: Cello Sonatas, Vol. 1' (CDA67633)
Beethoven: Cello Sonatas, Vol. 1
'Beethoven: Complete Cello Music' (CDD22004)
Beethoven: Complete Cello Music
MP3 £7.99FLAC £7.99ALAC £7.99Buy by post £27.98 (ARCHIVE SERVICE) CDD22004  2CDs Dyad (2 for the price of 1) — Archive Service  

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