The Sonatas for Piano and Cello:
G minor, Op.5/2
Mats Rondin (cello) & Hans Pålsson (piano)
Recorded between 11-14 March 2002 in Isidors Kulle, Huaröd, Sweden
Reviewed by: Douglas Cooksey
Reviewed: May 2005
CD No: ISIDOR RECORDS
ISCD-2 (2 CDs)
Duration: 1 hour 50 minutes
Yet another set of Beethoven’s Piano and Cello Sonatas. Is it really necessary? Emphatically yes. Despite the performers’ lack of celebrity, and Isidor being a little-known label, this is a quality production in every respect; indeed, the producer was Andrew Keener.
I have returned to this set with increasing pleasure. Mats Rondin and Hans Pålsson have a real sense of Beethoven’s evolving style. The two discursive early-period sonatas hold one’s attention throughout and the playing by both musicians is wonderfully characterful. In the wrong hands the F major Sonata can seem interminable; Rondin & Pålsson inhabit its expansive structure with poised assurance, at once articulate and exuberant but never over-pressured, the ear always led forward naturally, the playing full of light and shade.
The pivotal A major Sonata is a very different world, whilst the two late-period sonatas have a certainty of utterance that is wholly compelling; the Adagio con molto sentimento at the heart of the D major Sonata, in particular, being given with an elevated inwardness entirely appropriate. It is rare to hear two musicians with such a clear understanding of Beethoven’s three different periods and their respective soundworlds.
Particularly noticeable is that Rondin and Pålsson are a real duo who clearly relish playing together. No celebrity cellist with piano accompanist, here: there is instead the give-and-take of real chamber music with neither musician attempting to hog the limelight, and one would like to hear Hans Pålsson in some of Beethoven’s piano sonatas. If Rondin does not have the most burnished of cello sounds, he more than makes up for it with his penetrating musicianship.
The other quality aspect is the recording: the two instruments are beautifully balanced in an intimate acoustic. In Beethoven’s cello sonatas such things assume extraordinary importance and are here triumphantly surmounted. A few sniffs and intakes of breath add to the realism. Despite the somewhat spartan presentation, this release is recommended with enthusiasm; it deserves the widest currency both on musical and technical grounds. Purchase can be made through the Altara website.