Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Inspired by Mozart - Beethoven's opus 69 sonata for piano and cello

Inspired by Mozart: Beethoven, Mozart, Franz Xaver Mozart; Julius Berger, Margarita Hohenrieder; Nimbus Alliance
Reviewed by Robert Hugill on Jan 21 2016
Star rating: 4.0

A voyage round Beethoven's opus 69 sonata and its links to Mozart

This new disc from cellist Julius Berger on Nimbus Alliance is a follow up to his Inspired by Bach disc. Like that previous disc, this new one Inspired by Mozart is a voyage round a particular work, in this case Beethoven's 1809 Sonata for piano and violoncello in A major, Op. 69. Accompanied by pianist Margarita Hohenrieder, Berger plays Beethoven's Twelve Variations on the theme 'Ein Madchen oder Weibchen' from Mozart's opera 'Die Zauberflote', and Seven Variations on the them 'Bei Mannern welche Liebe fuhlen' from Mozart's opera 'Die Zauberflote',  and the Opus 69 sonata, plus Mozart's fragment K580a, and perhaps most fascinatingly the 1814 Grande Sonate for piano and cello (or violin) in E major Op. 19 by Franz Xaver Wolfgang Mozart, Mozart's son born in 1791.

Berger and Hohenrieder start with the two set of Beethoven variations, testament to the young composer's admiration of Mozart (in fact Beethoven wrote a total of four set of variations on themes from Mozart's operas). Here Berger and Hohenrieder play with easy charm and lyrical facility. I loved the way that, whilst not playing on a period instrument, Hohenrieder keeps her tone neat and tight whilst still expressive, so that the performances do not stretch the works beyond their natural shape.

Mozart's fragment K580a was drafted a year before his death for cor anglais and strings, and here Berger and Hohenrieder play a transcription for cello and piano. Fascinatingly the melody is that which Mozart would use in his Ave Verum.

Mozart junior's sonata is a large scale piece but it seems somewhat old fashioned when compared to Beethoven. The sonata (for cello or for violin) has tended to be ignored by cellists though Berger feels that this is due to the traditional version for cello and he has gone back to the original violin version,. The result is a big boned sonata with a lovely melodic sweep, which seem to link to the good natured classicism to be found in Mendelssohn and by pass Beethoven's sturm und drang.

The inspiration for the album is Berger's thoughts about Beethoven's opus 69 sonata, and how the melody in the opening of the slow movement resembles that of Mozart's Ave Verum. Berger's article details his fascinating thought processes regarding the sonata. Whether or not you follow him in all of his pathways, there is no denying that he and Hohenrieder have come up with a lovely fluid account of the sonata. This is the first sonata for cello and piano which has the two instruments as equals, and Berger and Hohenrieder make finely balanced partners projecting Beethoven's revolutionary balance between the instruments.

Berger's playing is finely classical, but fluid with a lovely sense of detail in the phrasing and articulation (in the scherzo he follows Beethoven's pupil Carl Czerny's instructions for the articulation). I can imagine other performances of the Beethoven but this is a testament to a fascinating journey of exploration that can be recommended.

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827) - Twelve Variations on the theme 'Ein Madchen oder Weibchen' from Mozart's opera 'Die Zauberflote'
Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827) - Seven Variations on the them 'Bei Mannern welche Liebe fuhlen' from Mozart's opera 'Die Zauberflote'
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791) - Adagio from KV580a
Franz Xaver Wolfgang Mozart (1791-1844) - Grande Sonate for Piano and Cello (or Violin) in E minor, Op.19
Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827) - Sonata for Piano and Cello in A minor, Op 69
Julius Berger (cello)
Margarita Hohenrieder (piano)
Recorded 16-18 March 2015, Alte Aula der Universitat Augsburg; 16-18 January 2015, Bugersaal Feldafing

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