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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: 15 minutes 47 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 C major, Op 102 No 1
composer
late July 1815; dedicated to Countess Anna Maria Erdödy; published in 1817 by Simrock and in 1819 by Artaria

Andante –  [2'53]
Allegro vivace  [5'11]
Allegro vivace  [4'28]

Other recordings available for download
Melvyn Tan (fortepiano), Anthony Pleeth (cello)
Daniel Müller-Schott (cello), Angela Hewitt (piano)
Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
The two Sonatas of Op 102, which can perhaps be regarded as the first works of Beethoven’s so-called ‘late’ period, were composed in 1815, the first completed, according to the wording on the manuscript, ‘towards the end of July’, and the second at the ‘beginning of August’. The inspiration behind them came from the cellist Josef Linke, another of Beethoven’s devoted musicians. Linke was a member of the house string quartet of Prince Rasumovsky, the former Russian Ambassador in Vienna, when at the end of December 1814 the Prince’s palace, laid out for an enormous royal banquet, burned to the ground. The quartet had to be disbanded and Linke was taken on by the Erdödys – Countess Anne Marie (to whom the Op 102 Sonatas are dedicated) and Count Peter, with whom he spent the summer at their retreat in Jedlersee am Marchfelde, east of Vienna. Beethoven, an affectionate friend of the couple, took every opportunity to escape from the city to visit them and his favourite cellist. A letter from Beethoven to the Countess, promising to visit her at Jedlersee, makes play on Linke’s name (meaning ‘left’ in German):

Let the violoncello apply himself, starting on the left bank of the Danube he is to play until everyone has crossed from the right bank of the Danube. What’s more, I am confident of the route over the Danube I have already set; with courage one may gain any objective if righteous.

The C major Sonata, despite the development by this stage of a piano closer to the more sonorous instrument of today, again eschews a full slow movement, but Beethoven this time preludes each of the two movements with a slow introduction. Of these the Andante is the more substantial, opening, rather in the manner of Op 69, with the cello alone, followed by a complementary phrase on the piano, both extended gently and rhapsodically until interrupted by the fortissimo arrival of the first Allegro vivace, which is actually in A minor. The argument is far more concentrated than in the earlier sonatas – Beethoven had by now moved away from the expansiveness of his middle period. The second movement opens with a short improvisatory Adagio which, before making way for the main part of the movement, allows a brief recall of the first movement’s Andante material. The finale proper is a terse sonata-form movement dominated by the short rising figure of the first few bars (perhaps derived from the theme of the Andante) and rapid semiquaver movement. But twice this movement is interrupted by pauses and still, open fifths on cello. At the end the tension winds down before the tempo is picked up again for the last couple of bars.

from notes by Matthew Rye © 1996


Other albums featuring this work
'Beethoven: Cello Sonatas, Vol. 2' (CDA67755)
Beethoven: Cello Sonatas, Vol. 2
'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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