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Customer Review

12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Beethoven, 16 Feb. 2014
This review is from: Beethoven: Cello Sonatas / Horn Sonata / Variations (period instruments) (Audio CD)
I think this is a terrific set. I have admired Steven Isserlis's playing for many years. His Bach Cello Suites are still among my favourite discs and this is another truly top-class recording.

I confess that although I love the cello (it is, or at least was, my instrument) and love much of Beethoven's music, I have struggled a bit with these sonatas in the past. The brilliant but to me slightly forbidding Rostropovich/Richter recordings and even the youthful zing of du Pré and Barenboim left me feeling more respect than affection for the Sonatas. They aren't straightforward pieces and the two late Op.102 Sonatas especially can, like the Late Quartets, be quite a challenging listen. These performances by Isserlis and Levin retain all Beethoven's intellectual and emotional weight but wear it sufficiently lightly to welcome the listener into their world. Their interpretations have been something of a revelation to me.

Steven Isserlis is a very thoughtful musician and there is always great depth and spirit in his performances. That is true here, too. Robert Levin really seems to match this, and the decision to play a fortepiano is inspired, I think. I'm not always a great fan of the fortepiano but here it seems exactly right, giving a lovely balance between the instruments and avoiding the rather swamping effect a modern grand piano can have in some recordings. Both instruments sound lovely, the two musicians have a fabulous empathy and the combination produces something really special.

This is one of a handful of recordings which has finally opened up for me music which I have previously found difficult to get into. Perhaps this is in part due to an increasing musical maturity (i.e. I'm getting old) but these performances genuinely speak to me in a way that no others have yet done. The recording by Hyperion is excellent and well-balanced, and Isserlis's notes are his usual fine mixture of insight and wit. It's a very, very good set all round and warmly recommended.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 21 Mar 2014 13:46:25 GMT
Dear Sid: Thank you so much for this wonderful and perceptive comment. I shall be purchasing this set for my cello-playing daughter's sixteenth birthday next week with confidence and anticipation of some enjoyable and satisfying listening. We are already fans of Isserlis, but this does not mean that we will like everything he does. However, your comments are so informative and knowledgeable (and I know exactly what you mean about the Rostropovitch and Du Pre sets) that I don't think we'll be disappointed. Thank you kindly, sir!

In reply to an earlier post on 22 Mar 2014 07:31:48 GMT
Sid Nuncius says:
Gosh - you are very kind, Mr Humphreys! I hope you like it after all that. :o) Best wishes to your cello-playing daughter; I hope she turns out to be a far better cellist than I did...which wouldn't be very difficult, come to think of it.
Kind regards
Sid
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