Alfred Brendel

Beethoven: Complete Works for Piano & Cello

(CD - Philips #000395802)

Review by

With acclaimed Beethoven interpreter Alfred Brendel at the keyboard and his son Adrian Brendel playing cello, this Philips double-disc should be a superb presentation of the five Sonatas and the three sets of Variations for cello and piano. One may suppose that this familial pair have played together for years and from that closeness, developed the necessary understanding and responsiveness to work sympathetically as a chamber duo. However, self-consciousness or second-guessing seem to hold them back from delivering fully engaged and emotive performances. Brendel the Elder is as meticulous as ever in the Sonatas, and expressive within his well-known Classicist boundaries; but his authority and restraint may be a hindrance to Brendel the Younger, who seems to wait too often for cues and cautiously tones down his expression in deference to his partner. As a result, the Sonatas lack real passion, volatility, and inspiration, and are only earnest in a slightly academic way. They let their hair down a little more in the Variations, particularly in Beethoven's fun set on Handel's "See, the Conqu'ring Hero Comes"; and the positive results here should be instructive for their future performances together. Philips provides fine recording quality, though the cello's sound is not evenly balanced with the piano.

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