Colin Carr & Thomas Sauer at Wigmore Hall – Beethoven

Variations on ‘Bei Männern welche Liebe fühlen’ from Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte, WoO46Sonata in A for Piano and Cello, Op.69
Sonata in D for Piano and Cello, Op.102/2

Colin Carr (cello) & Thomas Sauer (piano)

Reviewed by: Ben Hogwood

Reviewed: 28 November, 2011
Venue: Wigmore Hall, London

Colin Carr. Photograph: Herbert BarrettColin Carr and Thomas Sauer demonstrated a refreshingly uncomplicated approach to Beethoven’s music for cello and piano in this BBC Radio 3 Lunchtime Concert at Wigmore Hall. Carr has clearly lived and loved this music for some time, with every move and nuance borne out of instinct and familiarity. Crucially Sauer was on the same wavelength, for all of Beethoven’s duo-sonatas treat their two participants on equal terms.

The A major is perhaps the best loved of the composer’s five cello sonatas, its warm-hearted melodies and fluent musical arguments wrapped in an unusual yet highly effective form. Carr’s cello line had attractive affection, played legato but not afraid to dig in for the scherzo, its syncopated principal motif becoming ever-more insistent. In the trio this tension scaled new heights, for while Carr’s multiple-stopped melody was graceful Sauer was chipping away with continual references to the two-note theme in the left-hand, the mood becoming agitated. The pianist was particularly sensitive in the finale, where the bravura of the figurations for right-hand was intensely musical rather than obviously virtuosic.

Beethoven’s set of two sonatas published as Opus 102 indicate the beginning of his ‘late’ period, looking back towards the Baroque for inspiration on formal innovation but featuring daring harmonies, unusual structures and intensely focussed emotion. This could be felt most keenly at the junction between the Adagio and the fugue of the finale, where time seemed to hang still as Carr teased out the first few notes of the theme. This unfolded with wonderful inevitability, grace and poise giving way to a weightier sound as the parts sparred with each other. Carr’s broad bow strokes introduced a new countersubject, but this ultimately gave way to the momentum of the fugue, whose theme remained in the consciousness long after the performance. Prior to this the two performers were impressively together in the forthright first movement themes, Carr them tempering his vibrato considerably for the chorale of the emotive Adagio.

The duo had begun with one of two variation sets Beethoven wrote on themes from Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte, seemingly to coincide with two new productions brought to Vienna in 1801. The piano has greater dominance, but there was a nice sense of ‘call and response’ between the two instruments, a sensitively done minor-key fourth variation and a lightly humorous and quicker fifth. The pair’s proximity and attention to detail counted for much – here was chamber music performed and enjoyed as it should be.

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