The five cello sonatas Beethoven completed are extraordinarily significant works not only musically, but historically, as well. Composers whose footsteps Beethoven followed did not write sonatas for the instrument; in choosing to do so, Beethoven paved the way for generations of sonatas that would come after him. The sonatas were composed throughout Beethoven's output, with at least one representative from each of his three commonly recognized style periods. This album, featuring cellist Tanya Tomkins and fortepianist Eric Zivian, focuses on the very popular Op. 69 sonata (written after the Fifth and Sixth symphonies) and the two Op. 102 sonatas. While Beethoven lists the fortepiano first on the score, this was merely a matter of formality as the two instruments are clearly equal partners. This is clearly reflected in Tomkins and Zivian's dynamic playing in which dialogue and balance are clearly well-thought-out elements. Tomkins and Zivian also have a nicely complementary sound, with Zivian's fortepiano being dry but robust and Tomkins' being focused and clear. Neither player holds back any of the exuberance that these sonatas invariably elicit from performers, but every note is controlled. Tomkins' playing is technically superior and musically informed, providing listeners with everything from vigorous excitement to serene tranquility. The disc also includes an enjoyable reading of the Op. 126 Bagatelles for solo fortepiano, giving Zivian yet another opportunity to demonstrate how versatile and engaging the right fortepiano can be in the right hands.
AllMusic Review by Mike D. Brownell
|Sonata for cello & piano No. 4 in C major, Op. 102/1|
|Sonata for cello & piano No. 5 in D major, Op. 102/2|
|Bagatelles (6) for piano, Op. 126|
|Sonata for cello & piano No. 3 in A major, Op. 69|