Natalie Clein & Alasdair Beatson at Wigmore Hall – Beethoven & Britten

Sonata in D for Piano and Cello, Op.102/2
Cello Suite No.3, Op.87
Sonata in C for Piano and Cello, Op.102/1

Natalie Clein (cello) & Alasdair Beatson (piano)

Reviewed by: Ben Hogwood

Reviewed: 13 May, 2013
Venue: Wigmore Hall, London

Natalie Clein. Photograph: Sussie AhlburgNatalie Clein and Alasdair Beatson opened their Wigmore Hall BBC Lunchtime Recital with the last of Beethoven’s five sonatas for piano and cello – a curious decision to upset chronology. But for reasons of tonality (the Britten ends in C major, the key with which Opus 102/1 begins), the result was successful. There is a close musical bond between these two performers, and in the busy first movement of Opus 102/2 they were finishing each other’s melodic sentences, and keeping together rhythmically, in spite of a good amount of largely tasteful rubato. The fugue beginning the third movement was given a detailed workout, its intricate workings easy to follow and gathering energy as they progressed. The second movement Adagio was relatively swift, not pausing for contemplation, although Clein really made the cello sing. The C major Sonata was similarly effective, several rhythmic liberties taken but with overall musical impact uppermost in the performers’ minds. The close-knit opening Andante was not as meditative as some, but the warm intimacy was always evident. The second movement was Allegro if not fully vivace, and rather deliberate at times, but again Clein and Beatson were as-one in their interpretation, the pianist taking the lead as much as he accompanied, with fluent and careful phrasing.

Alasdair Beatson. Photograph: Giorgia BertazziDividing the Opus 102 masterworks was one of Britten’s finest, the Cello Suite No.3, imbued with Russian flavour in tribute to his great friend Mstislav Rostropovich. In a commanding performance, Clein was keen to get to the soul of the piece, inflecting the melodies of the ‘Introduzione’ with some striking double-stopping that reflected Britten’s inventiveness. Close attention to markings and instructions is significant to a successful performance of any of Britten’s Cello Suites. Clein was attentive while harnessing the gathering power of ‘Fuga’, the intensity and drama of ‘Presto’, which fluttered around like an insect unable to land, and the resonant pizzicato chords of ‘Dialogo’, its sounds striking if a little withdrawn than with some interpreters. As the Suite reached its apex, and the quotation of Russian folksongs, Clein became solemn and soulful, not as expansive as Rostropovich, but no less deeply felt. There was more Britten for the encore, a helter-skelter account of the finale, ‘Moto perpetuo’, from his Sonata for Cello and Piano.

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