BEETHOVEN: Cello Sonatas; 12 Variations on “See the Conquering Hero Comes” from Judas Maccabaeues; 12 Variations on “Ein Madchen ode rein Weibchen”; 7 Var. on “Bei Mannern, welche Liebe fuhlen” – Zuill Bailey, cello/Simone Dinnerstein, p. – Telarc (2)

by | Aug 18, 2009 | Classical Reissue Reviews | 0 comments

BEETHOVEN: Cello Sonatas (complete); 12 Variations on “See the Conquering Hero Comes” from Judas Maccabaeues; 12 Variations on “Ein Madchen ode rein Weibchen” from The Magic Flute; 7 Variations on “Bei Mannern, welche Liebe fuhlen” from The Magic Flute – Zuill Bailey, cello/ Simone Dinnerstein, piano – Telarc 80740 (2 CDs), 227:41 *****:

Telarc has decided to couple two of their up-and-coming stars into one package for this release of the complete cello music of Beethoven. But this is evidently not a new pairing as the two artists have been playing together for about a decade now, and these pieces in particular are among the first they tackled. So what we should be hearing is a seasoned and well-considered performance by two pros.

We get this, and much more.

While I was much taken with the first disc of a projected series by Daniel Muller-Schott and Angela Hewitt on Hyperion [see here for review] and consider it only one small notch below my favorite, Jacqueline Du Pre, I must in all honesty offer a reassessment. As good as the Hyperion is—and it is very good—this new Telarc leaves it in the dust. At least for someone who is of a “Du Pre” state of mind and misses her passion and even aggressiveness in this music, the Hyperion now seems to me a little sedate; however, not unaware that Jackie has her critics, I can indeed suggest that those shying away from such interpretations might indeed favor Muller-Schott and Hewitt—there is no degree of substance lacking in their readings.

But this new Telarc is tremendously exciting and forces these pieces to life as if no other option were available. From the opening of No. 1, even the Adagio is pregnant with anticipation before launching into the Allegro. You can smell the rosin coming from Mr. Bailey’s smoking bow in the way he pulls the rich and energetic tone from his strings. The A-major and D-major sonatas—probably the most famous and popular—get readings of great finesse and high-wire acrobatics, keeping us on the edge of our seats almost waiting for a disaster to occur–but doesn’t. Again, I cannot overemphasize the sense of compulsion present in these readings; Bailey and Dinnerstein (who shows us a lot different persona than that found in her Bach recordings) do not let us for one moment sit back and relax while listing to this music. Attention is demanded and received; if ever there was what could be termed an enforced listening experience, this is it. So if you are purchasing this because you think it would make some nice reading music, think again. If you want superb Beethoven presented at the very height of interpretative prowess, this is for you.

I have been riding Telarc hard recently because of their scattered SACD release policy, and I do not think this disc has Super Audio in its future. But I am also bound to report that I can’t imagine it really needing it; this sound is so vibrant and fully spaced that it would have to be some record-setting SA to top it. The musical emotion is palpable and the players are sitting right beside you. Top of the heap then, this startlingly extraordinary recording, and I think even Jackie may have to give way. Outstanding!

— Steven Ritter

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