Beethoven’s works for cello and piano cover a large part of his compositional life with the two Op.5 cello sonatas and Mozart and Handel variations dating from 1796 and the final two cello sonatas, Op.102 dating from 1815.
A new release from Pentatone www.pentatonemusic.com features cellist Matt Haimovitz www.matthaimovitz.com and pianist Christopher O’Riley http://christopheroriley.com playing all of Beethoven’s sonatas and variations for cello and piano. Haimovitz plays his own Goffriller cello made in Venice, Italy in 1710 fitted with ox-gut strings also from Italy and an early 19th century rosewood tailpiece. He uses a Dominique Peccatte bow of the same era. Christopher O’Riley plays on an original Broadwood fortepiano made in 1823.
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Matt Haimovitz made his debut in 1984, at the age of 13, as a soloist with Zubin Mehta and the Israel Philharmonic. He made his first recording for Deutsche Grammophon (Universal Classics) at the age of 17 years with James Levine and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Haimovitz made his Carnegie Hall debut when he substituted for his teacher, Leonard Rose, in Schubert’s String Quintet, alongside Isaac Stern, Mstislav Rostropovich, Pinchas Zukerman and Shlomo Mintz.
Haimovitz’s recording career encompasses more than 20 years of award-winning work on Deutsche Grammophon and his own Oxingale Records. Close collaborations have included composer Philip Glass, pianist Christopher O’Riley, actor Jeremy Irons, author Cornelia Funke, and mezzosoprano Frederica von Stade, among others. Haimovitz has been the recipient of the Concert Music Award from ASCAP, the Trailblazer Award from the American Music Center, the Avery Fisher Career Grant, the Grand Prix du Disque, the Diapason d’Or, and the Premio Internazionale ‘Accademia Musicale Chigiana.’
Acclaimed pianist Christopher O’Riley is known to millions as the host of NPR’s (National Public Radio, USA) radio show From the Top. Now in his fifteenth year on air, O’Riley introduces the next generation of classical music stars to almost a million listeners each week. He performs around the world and has garnered widespread praise for his untiring efforts to reach new audiences.
O’Riley has performed as a soloist with virtually all of the major American orchestras, including the New York Philharmonic, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Philadelphia Orchestra, Chicago Symphony, National Symphony, and San Francisco Symphony. He led the Academy of St Martin in the Fields on a two-week tour of ten American cities performing concertos by Bach, Mozart, and Liszt and toured throughout the United Kingdom with the Moscow Philharmonic. He has worked with such renowned conductors as Alan Gilbert, David Robertson, Leonard Slatkin, Neeme Järvi, Marin Alsop, Semyon Bychkov, Hugh Wolff, and many others. In addition, O’Riley has performed recitals throughout North America, Europe, and Australia. He has collaborated for many years with the flautist Sir James Galway and cellists Matt Haimovitz and Carter Brey.
Matt Haimovitz and Christopher O’Riley open the first disc of this two CD set with Beethoven’s Cello Sonata No. 1 in F major, Op. 5, No. 1 (1796). Haimovitz’s cello brings a lovely rich tone in the opening of the Adagio Sostenuto, contrasting well with the lighter, transparent textures of Christopher O’Riley’s fortepiano in this beautifully paced movement. They move seamlessly into the Allegro where O’Riley brings a fine, fluent touch with Haimovitz chasing forward with equally fine playing. There are some particularly lovely higher notes from the fortepianist as well as moments of fine incisiveness from these players. Haimovitz reveals a fine rubato with playing full of character with beautifully rich colours and textures. There is a lovely dialogue developed between these two fine artists with a terrific tautness. The Rondo (Allegro vivace) brings some absolutely terrific playing, fine rich incisive phrases from Haimovitz and remarkably fast and fluent fortepiano passages from O’Riley. They bring a great rhythmic swagger before the music slows to lead to the decisive coda.
12 Variations in G Major on See the conquering hero comes from Handel's Judas Maccabaeus, WoO 45 also dates from 1796 and receives a lovely crisp opening before leading into some beautifully shaped moments. Again there is very fine rubato from Haimovitz who draws some very fine textures and colours even in the more dynamic passages. O’Riley provides some particularly fine and fluent playing not to mention finding sensitive quieter moments later in the variations. This is a terrific performance.
There is a gloriously shaped opening to the Adagio sostenuto ed espressivo of the Cello Sonata No. 2 in G minor, Op. 5, No. 2 (1796) building subtly in drama as it progresses with really very fine playing and an exquisite coda before leading gently into the Allegro molto più tosto presto rising up dynamically as they move forward. There is more terrific interplay between soloists as well as some terrifically fluent playing from O’Riley with Haimovitz creating more fine textures and sonorities. There is a very fine opening to the Rondo (Allegro) from O’Riley before Haimovitz enters. These players really hurtle ahead with some terrific fleet playing from Haimovitz equally matched by O’Riley, full of panache with some impressive playing as they head to the coda.
These two players bring very fine precision to Beethoven’s 12 Variations in F major on Ein Mädchen oder Weibchen from Mozart's Die Zauberflöte, Op. 66 (1796) as they move through Beethoven’s lovely piece revealing so many fine moments. There is some particularly sensitive and finely balanced playing in the quieter moments as well as some beautifully crisp and pointed up passages, with, at times, a naturally unstoppable feel. A really lovely performance.
The second of these two CDs leads with Beethoven’s Cello Sonata No. 3 in A major, Op. 69 (1808). There is a glorious opening to the Allegro, ma non tanto from Haimovitz full of a rich mahogany sound. As O’Riley joins and they develop the theme it is beautifully paced, drawing out all of Beethoven’s fine invention. There is fine care of dynamics with Haimovitz bringing a lovely characterful feel to his tone. There are moments of terrific passion before the beautifully done coda.
Some beautifully crisp playing from O’Riley opens the Scherzo (Allegro molto) closely followed by equally fine incisive playing from Haimovitz, drawing some very fine sonorities before they build a great tension with wonderfully taut playing before the subdued coda. The Adagio cantabile has a lovely opening with Haimovitz revealing some deep emotional feeling with O’Riley bringing sensitive and delicate accompaniment before they take off in the Allegro Vivace with playing of tremendous style and precision. There are some lovely little moments full of character and humour as well as some beautifully built passages as they rise from hushed to dynamic with exhilarating and breathtakingly fine playing.
One notices Haimovitz’s lovely singing cello as the 7 Variations in E-Flat Major on Mozart's "Bei Männern, welche Liebe fühlen", WoO 46: from Mozart's Die Zauberflöte, open. These players have a seemingly intuitive understanding of each other’s playing. O’Riley brings some lovely, sensitive, hushed fortepiano passages with these two players really knowing how to bring these variations alive.
The little Andante that opens the Cello Sonata No. 4 in C major, Op. 102, No. 1 (1815) has a lovely thoughtful opening, beautifully developed so that when the Allegro Vivace arrives the dramatic thrust is intense bringing fire and emotional impact with some incisive and taut playing. Haimovitz and O’Riley judge the Adagio - Tempo d'andante perfectly, drawing more exquisitely shaped and textured playing before the Allegro Vivace where there is a very fine rhythmic sway to the music not to mention some terrific playing of Beethoven’s quirky little phrases. This duo’s playing is marvellously precise and taut as they round off this sonata.
There is tip top precision from both these players in the opening Allegro con brio of Beethoven’s last Cello Sonata, No. 5 in D major, Op. 102, No. 2 (1815) bringing out so much of the composer’s fiery temperament set against moment of sheer poetry. The Adagio con moto sentimento d'affetto brings a sonorous and solemn movement with these artists bringing equally fine individual contributions, exquisitely done, slowly developing with Haimovitz’s lovely tone revealing so much. There are many fine subtleties and beautifully shaped quieter moments with the balance between cello and fortepiano beautifully done in the hushed moments.
Haimovitz and O’Riley skip gently into the Allegro - Allegro fugato before picking up the pace, bringing all their fine intuitive accuracy and ensemble to the fugal section with a fine rhythmic spring to their playing before leading to a fine coda. Matt Haimovitz and Christopher O’Riley bring playing of terrific panache and brio to sit alongside moments of fine poetry, rich textures and colours and an intuitive understanding of each other. They receive very fine recorded sound that is clear and detailed yet brings out all of the rich textures of Haimovitz’s fine instrument.
If you are looking for a period instrument performance of these works you won’t find better.