Guido Schiefen

Beethoven: The Complete Cello Sonatas

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It is easily arguable that Beethoven was largely responsible for the re-elevation of the cello as a major player in chamber music. After a dearth of such compositions, Beethoven wrote his first sonatas for piano with cello obbligato in 1797. Despite their title, the cello's role in the duo sonatas was already quite significant. Beethoven returned to the cello two more times during his career, once with the much-beloved Op. 69 A major Sonata, and again with the two sonatas of Op. 102. Each time, the complexity of the sonatas increased, as did the independence of the cello, paving the way for future generations of composers. Works of this significance have, of course, been recorded and performed countless times. This Oehms Classics album features cellist Guido Schiefen and pianist Alfredo Perl. Both musicians display a clear understanding of the score and the importance of dialogue between their two instruments. Schiefen's playing is in tune, sensitive, and articulate, though with perhaps too many slides and glissandos for the tastes of some listeners. Perl's execution is equally intricate and balanced; the piano's tone is powerful and clear without covering the cello. As an introductory recording, this disc is certainly a good place to start. Still, there's nothing particularly special or exciting to be found. It certainly does not feature the sheer power and bravura of Rostropovich and Richter, nor the amazing elegance of Fournier and Kempff. The two-disc set also adds the rarely played transcription of the Op. 17 Horn Sonata, which pales in comparison to the original works for cello and piano. Schiefen and Perl may have done better to include some of the variation sets to fill the extra space on the disc.

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