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Beethoven: Complete Cello Sonatas and Variations CD review – here's how to make Beethoven's huge structures work

12.08.16
Shai Wosner
The Guardian

Here are two musicians a generation apart, feeding off each other’s energy. Ralph Kirshbaum and Shai Wosner’s long tour of Beethoven’s complete works for cello and piano culminated earlier this year at London’s Wigmore Hall, where this album was recorded. Wosner keeps the piano line crisp and buoyant; Kirshbaum spins long, broad phrases that look convincingly into the far distance. Together they make Beethoven’s huge structures work, but the details can be striking too: listen for the sense of desolation at the end of the Adagio in the first movement of the Sonata No 2, or the way in which the ethereal beginning of No 3 comes gradually into solid focus. In the heavier passages of the earlier sonatas the phrasing can sound laboured, but only fleetingly. All three of Beethoven’s sets of variations – two on Mozart, one on Handel – is arguably overkill, but it’s good to hear them played with so much life.