Beethoven Sonatas for cello and piano on Hyperion

2009-03-01 / Fanfare Magazine / Jerry Dubins

Beethoven Cello Sonatas: No. 1 in F; No.2 in G; No. 3 in A. Daniel Muller-Schott (vc); Angela Hewitt (pn). Hyperion 67633 (78:07)

Beethoven’s cello sonatas have been getting an awful lot of attention lately. Just for this issue, I submitted a review of yet another complete set with Suren Baggratuni and Ralph Tovapek on the Blue griffin label, and two or three others have come my way within recent months. Hyperion has chosen to make its entry into the field with a disc containing the first three sonatas, with the reminder to follow on a second volume.

By all expectations, Daniel Muller-Schott and Angela Hewitt should be the dream team. I’ve praised Hewitt to the heavens for her Beethoven piano sonatas, and I’ve waxed rapturous over Muller-Schott in other repertoire, most currently in a review of his disc of Saint-Saens concerted cello works. Put together one of the most exciting young cellists to come along in quite a while with one of the great Beethoven interpreters of our time, and the results are bound to be electrifying.

Sometimes expectations are satisfied and sometimes they’re not. In this case, they’re fulfilled in spades. Whatever good things I’ve said about other entrants in this field—and there are good things to say about all of them—Hewitt and Muller-Schott make just about everyone else dispensable, which is to say that if I were allowed only one recording of these works, this would be the one I’d choose.

Muller-Schott is a magnificent player and musician, but Hewitt, with her recent foray into Beethoven’s solo piano sonatas, brings all of the wisdom and wit of that experience to bear on these readings. There is a joyous exuberance and an explosion of wide-eyed wonderment and delight in theses performances that make them sound as if the ink has barely dried on the page, and they are being played for the first time. There are passages, such as the one that begins around 1:40 in the last movement of the F-Major Sonata that will make you laugh out loud, so perfectly do Hewitt and Muller-Schott capture Beethoven’s tomfoolery. Other passages, such as the long introduction that opens the G-Minor Sonata that I used to think was so achingly sad, I now hear in Hewitt’s and Muller-Schott’s interpretation as actually funny in its mock seriousness. This was Beethoven as tragic poseur before any of life’s true tragedies had struck him.

Muller-Schott is sensitive and responsive to the music’s every nuance, and he brings to these scores an open-heartedness as big and generous as is the tone he draws from his 1727 Ex Shapiro Matteo Goffriller cello. Hewitt continues her allegiance to the Fazioli brand, the piano she has played to such stunning effect in her Beethoven sonata cycle.

When I am in the mood for Beethoven’s cello sonatas, this will be the first (and perhaps the only) CD I will want to listen to. Cruel though it may be to say so, after this, others need not apply. Urgently recommended.