Beethoven Cello and Piano Sonatas on Hyperion, Vol. 2

2010-03-13 / Daily Telegraph / Geoffrey Norris

Beethoven: Cello Sonatas Op 102; Variations Op 66, WoO45 & WoO46

Daniel Müller-Schott (cello), Angela Hewitt (piano). Rating: * * * * *

Daniel Müller-Schott and Angela Hewitt begin their Beethoven recital with the variations on See, the Conqu’ring Hero Comes from Handel’s Judas Maccabaeus. As Müller-Schott says in his eloquent and informative booklet notes, it is possible to see that, although the piano has the upper hand here, Beethoven “used the variations as an initial laboratory to formulate his ideas” on how parity could be effected between the more acoustically dominant piano and the warmer timbre of the cello.

Hewitt is certainly sprightly in the generous part that Beethoven wrote for the pianist, but you can hear what Müller-Schott means in, for example, the second variation, where the two instruments, while coalescing, articulate different modifications of the Handel theme, the cello breathing long lines, the piano dancing about with wide leaps and nifty finger-work. Similar things occur in the sets of variations on the arias “Ein Mädchen oder Weibchen” and “Bei Männern, welche Liebe fühlen” from Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte. Again, the piano forms the foundation on which the variations are built, but the cello has important ideas to contribute. For instance, in the moderately paced fourth variation of the “Ein Mädchen” set, Beethoven establishes a dialogue in which both instruments, by turns, voice their different views on the theme.

In the two sonatas of Op 102, composed in 1815, Beethoven definitively cracked it. Both players are on an equal footing, the composer capitalising on the agile and lyrically expressive properties of the cello while not curbing the dynamism or colours of the piano.

The fact that Müller-Schott and Hewitt have considered these facets is abundantly clear from these absorbing interpretations, where the two players instinctively click and the music comes across with vibrancy, sensitivity and a galvanising unanimity of purpose.