BEETHOVEN Cello Sonatas: in F, op. 5/1; in A, op. 69; in D, op. 102/2
BjÝrn Solum (vc); Kristin Fossheim (fp) ü 2L ü 2L7 (67:18)

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Rather charmingly, the players here attempt to reproduce the sound Beethoven expected to hear when his cello sonatas were played, while at the same time admitting the difficulty of such a task. After all, they point out, the fortepiano was evolving during Beethovenís lifetime. Nonetheless, the sweet, slightly muffled (to our ears) sound of a copy of a 1790 Walter piano must be closer to the instruments Beethoven heard than a 20th-century Steinway would be. That is no reason to turn away from the great recordings of the past, including my favorite, that of Pierre Fournier with Artur Schnabel, where the perfect balance of the two instruments, the exquisite phrasing, and the convincing forward motion are a result of the musiciansís tact, understanding, and sublime musicality. A phrase played by Fournier, or a Feuermann, for instance, will have a shape, and a purpose in the larger context, that makes the specific sound seem secondary. I donít think it would matter if you took away a little of the Steinway treble from Schnabelís playing.

Still, when one listens to the almost harp-like glissando of the fortepiano on the first page of op. 69, one immediately sees the value of having an original instrument version of these works alongside the classic recordings. The delicacy of that effect and the wistfulness of other passages are well worth hearing. I admire as well the graceful energy of the two performers recorded here, their gently nuanced responses to one another. Solum has a pleasant, almost wry tone. The performances donít, to my ears, achieve the power of those of Schnabel and Fournier. But they are lovely, lively, and intelligent, and they are well recorded by a Norwegian company whose work I did not previously know.

Michael Ullman
Nov/Dec 2002