Maxim Rysanov / Kristina Blaumane / Jacob Katsnelson

Beethoven

(CD - Onyx Classics #ONYX 4108)

Review by

Maxim Rysanov is one of the rising stars of the viola, and like other players of his instrument he has tried to expand its available repertory. You might say he goes to extremes here with some early Beethoven works that are almost never performed. There are some dubious assertions involved in the music as it is heard on this release. The "Sonatine" (the quotes are as given in the track list) for viola and cello consists of two of five pieces, WoO 33, that Beethoven wrote down on two staves without any indication of what instruments were supposed to play them. Beethoven didn't mark them as a sonatine, and they're not notated differently from other works in the WoO 33 set, which is generally thought to be for mechanical clock (the notation is similar to that in Mozart's late mechanical clock pieces, a copy of which Beethoven owned). As the booklet notes, the pieces do not work very well on viola and cello, but they're charming in the fearlessly gawky way that the young Beethoven often is, even if there's little reason to think Beethoven intended them as an independent work. Elsewhere there is a genuine little viola-and-cello piece written, in Beethoven's words, "for two obbligato eyeglasses" (apparently belonging to the dedicatee), an arrangement for viola and piano of a movement of the Serenade for string trio, Op. 8, an arrangement of the Clarinet Trio, Op. 11, replacing the clarinet with a viola, and, quite incongruously, the late Cello Sonata in D major, Op. 102/2. Everyone plays with a feel for Beethoven's early style, and certainly it's nice to hear some of this music in any form at all, but the arrangement labors involved here might have been directed to other music; there's a lack of a sense of a satisfying whole here. The National Philharmonic Hall in Vilnius, Latvia, renders the sound clearly even if it's too imposing as a venue.

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