Notes and Editorial Reviews
Towards the end of 1971 the harsher realities of illness dashed all Jacqueline du Pre's hopes of a studio recording of Beethoven's complete works for cello and piano with her husband, Daniel Barenboim. By great good fortune, however, the BBC were present with microphones when they played the cycle during the 1970 Edinburgh Festival. And after long enriching the LP catalogue, this recording has now been transferred to CD, with all five sonatas and the three sets of variations fitted (by the omission of certain repeats in the first three sonatas as well as of all applause) on to only two discs lasting for an exceptionally generous total of 142 minutes. If doing less than complete justice to Du Pre's vibrant tone, the sound-quality is
acceptable enough. But rarely (so it seems) can Edinburgh weather have been worse. Persistent coughing from the audience must have proved as grievous a cross for these two deeply committed young artists to bear as it remains for prospective CD purchasers.
At first I thought balance over-favoured the pianist, who emerges very much the leader in the early F major Sonata, and even in parts of its immediate G minor successor. But as the maturing Beethoven himself gradually unites the two instruments as equal partners, so all problems of this kind are overcome. After such searching intensity in the introductory Adagio of the latter work, how the two players enjoy the gaiety and sparkle of its concluding G major Rondo. In the lyrical A major Sonata, their point-making is never allowed to disrupt the music's longer flow. In the last two late works, nothing haunts the memory more than their withdrawn, self-communing slow movements, especially the devoutly suppliant Adagio (taken extremely slowly) of the D major Sonata (and, incidentally, how subtly they prepare for its other-worldliness in the coda of the preceding Allegro con brio). I also greatly enjoyed their temperament, as well as their relish of the composer's craftsmanship, in the darting exchanges of both finales.
The Variations are pure delight, with the boldest contrasts of dynamics and Sone-colour to enhance characterization. Slower, minor key numbers are sung with a speaking espressivo. And the spontaneity and sparkle of so many of the others is just what the booklet's happy, laughing photograph of Du Pre and Barenboim in action would lead you to expect.
-- Joan Chissell, Gramophone [8/1989]
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