Jean-Guihen Queyras / Alexander Melnikov

Beethoven: Complete Works for Violoncello & Piano

(CD - Harmonia Mundi #HMC 90218384)

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There are curiously few complete cycles of Beethoven's five sonatas for cello and piano, given that the five, unlike the violin sonatas, were almost equally distributed among the composer's early, middle, and late periods, and that each one was in its way a formally daring work. The last two sonatas in particular, with their mysteriously lyrical third relations and compact finales, fugal in the case of the Cello Sonata No. 5 in D major, Op. 102/2, might be regarded as having inaugurated Beethoven's late period. Cellist Jean-Guihen Queyras and pianist Alexander Melnikov (here playing a modern piano unlike on the trio recording the pair made with violinist Isabelle Faust) have an efficient, quick, tough style that beautifully fits these late sonatas. They do well in the two sonatas of Op. 5, not trying to impose an artificial shape on what must have been at the time shockingly long opening movements. The Cello Sonata No. 3 in A major, Op. 69, might want a bit more broad middle-period sweep and lyricism, but you get several bonuses here: a trio of variations for cello and piano from the years around 1800 that are almost never played, and uncannily direct sound from Harmonia Mundi, working in Berlin's Teldex Studios. A worthy Beethoven cello set in every way.

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