François Salque / Eric le Sage

Beethoven: Les Sonates pour Violoncelle et Piano

(CD - Sony Classical #88985406832)

Review by

Beethoven's cello sonatas were among the first works to explore the potential of the cello as a solo chamber instrument. French cellist François Salque catches the nature of this status in his splendid recordings of the early Op. 5 sonatas on this two-disc Sony set: it's a lively recording in which the cello seems to grow into its new role. Sample the unexpectedly massive (16-minute) opening movement of the Cello Sonata No. 1 in F major, Op. 5, No. 1, a sort of extended essay in the development of new sonorities for cello and piano; in Salque's hands the cello seems constantly to be stepping to the forefront in unexpected ways. Salque and pianist Eric Le Sage deliver suave readings in a classic French tradition, and their approach works wonderfully in the Op. 5 sonatas, less well in the middle-period Cello Sonata No. 3 in A major, Op. 69, and once again excitingly in the late fourth and fifth sonatas, which also were stylistically transitional works and among the first in which Beethoven's late style really showed itself. Here again, the precise ways of Salque and Le Sage yield results in terms of clarity in the big new fugal finale of the Cello Sonata No. 5 in D major, Op. 102, No. 2, and especially in the complex ebb and flow of the two-movement (or is it four?) Cello Sonata No. 4 in C major, Op. 102, No. 1. With fine sound from the Salle de la Conservatoire de Liège, this is Gallic Beethoven playing at a high level.

blue highlight denotes track pick