Beethoven: Complete Music for Cello & Piano

Emanuel Gruber / Arnon Erez

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Beethoven: Complete Music for Cello & Piano Review

by James Manheim

This performance of Beethoven's cello-and-piano music, by two Israeli musicians, was recorded in the auditorium of a Tel Aviv museum. In the interpretation as well as in the sound, the album represents a good example of local musicians doing their jobs well. Cellist Emanuel Gruber and pianist Arnon Erez stay out of the music's way. They are deliberate and circumspect in the large middle movement of the Sonata No. 1 in F major, Op. 5/1, letting the 15 minutes of music carve out its spacious realm without forcing it toward the more tumultuous language of middle-period Beethoven. In the late Op. 102 sonatas they plunge into the gnarly fugues, proceed quietly through the transcendent, mystic slow movements (even if there is too much breath noise in these), and draw the odd juxtapositions of Beethoven's late style sharply without overemphasizing them. Their recording of Beethoven's sole middle-period cello sonata, the Sonata No. 3 in A major, Op. 69, is unusually effective, bringing out the motivic detail that reveals this work as contemporaneous with the Symphony No. 5 and solving the problem of balance between the cello and piano that plagued Beethoven as he worked on the sonata. There isn't a strong sense of a personal encounter with Beethoven in these sonatas, but the music is well-considered and competently executed throughout. The inclusion of Beethoven's three sets of variations for cello and piano is a bonus; many sets of the five sonatas omit these even when there's plenty of room on one disc of a two-disc set.

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