Ludwig van Beethoven: Complete Music for Piano and Violoncello

András Schiff, Miklós Perényi

“Beethoven’s five sonatas for piano and cello show in a nutshell the same evolution that the 32 piano sonatas show,” said András Schiff recently. “You have this wonderful young lion Beethoven in the opus 5 sonatas, you have the opus 69, the A major, which stands in the middle of his life, and then you have these wonderful two works, opus 102, which are at the gates of the late style, the last phase. And these are in a way experimental works, but fully crystallized.”
Superbly played by Schiff and Miklós Perényi, these may be the definitive recordings of Beethoven’s music for piano and cello.

Featured Artists Recorded

December 2001 & August 2002, Reitstadel, Neumarkt

Original Release Date

27.09.2004

  • CD 1
  • Sonate F-Dur op. 5, Nr. 1
    (Ludwig van Beethoven)
  • 1I. Adagio sostenuto02:56
  • 2II. Allegro14:55
  • 3III. Rondo. Allegro vivace06:45
  • 4Variationen über ein Thema aus Händels Oratorium "Judas Maccabaeus" G-Dur WoO 45
    (Ludwig van Beethoven)
    11:01
  • Sonate g-moll op. 5, Nr. 2
    (Ludwig van Beethoven)
  • 5I. Adagio sostenuto e espressivo05:08
  • 6II. Allegro molto piu tosto presto13:01
  • 7III. Rondo. Allegro08:26
  • Sonate F-Dur op. 17 "Horn-Sonate"
    (Ludwig van Beethoven)
  • 8I. Allegro moderato08:00
  • 9II. Poco Adagio, quasi Andante01:08
  • 10III. Rondo. Allegro moderato04:46
  • CD 2
  • 112 Variationen über "Ein Mädchen oder Weibchen" F-Dur op. 66
    (Ludwig van Beethoven)
    09:04
  • Sonate A-Dur op. 69
    (Ludwig van Beethoven)
  • 2I. Allegro ma non tanto11:35
  • 3II. Scherzo. Allegro molto05:11
  • 4III. Adagio cantabile01:30
  • 5IV. Allegro vivace06:39
  • 67 Variationen über "Bei Männern, welche Liebe fühlen" Es-Dur WoO 46
    (Ludwig van Beethoven)
    08:12
  • Sonate C-Dur op. 102, Nr. 1
    (Ludwig van Beethoven)
  • 7I. Andante02:44
  • 8II. Allegro vivace04:50
  • 9III. Adagio - Tempo d'Andante02:58
  • 10IV. Allegro - Allegro vivace04:11
  • Sonate D-Dur op. 102, Nr. 2
    (Ludwig van Beethoven)
  • 11I. Allegro con brio06:01
  • 12II. Adagio con molto sentimento d'affetto06:34
  • 13III. Allegro - Allegro fugato04:41
MIDEM Classical Award, Chamber Music category
Preis der deutschen Schallplattenkritik, Jahrespreis
Preis der deutschen Schallplattenkritik, Bestenliste 4/2004
Fono Forum, Empfehlung des Monats
Gramophone, Editor’s Choice
Stereophile, Recording of the month
Gramofon (Hungary), Klassisches Album des Jahres
 
Two master musicians explore Beethoven’s output for cello and piano: six sonatas and three sets of variations. They span Beethoven’s career and make for a fascinating and rewarding musical journey in a relatively compact way. Perényi and Schiff bring many years of practical experience to bear and it shows in every bar. A masterly survey.
James Jolly, Gramophone
 
The pairing of instrumental personalities is the source of the richness in these works and the key to their success in performance. And here these two Hungarians, both in their 50’s, seem to have found much common ground, both in their aggressive, assured playing and the way in which both men were obviously dedicated to bringing something new out of these very familiar works. …
Another challenge is the notion that either the cello or the piano is meant to be the minor voice. … In this recording, both instrumentalists are equal partners; the balance in these surprisingly elegant interpretations is extraordinary. … As with all ECM recordings, the sound is full-range, crisp and defined – the sonorities of the cello have rarely been this well recorded.
Robert Baird, Stereophile
 
In every respect this is an extraordinary release. Stylish, virtuosic and utterly free of mannerisms, it goes to the heart of the quintessential Beethoven. Moreover, it is more 'complete' than most other traversals of this repertory in its inclusion not only of all three sets of variations that Beethoven composed for cello and piano, but also the less frequently heard arrangement he made for that combination of his Op. 17 Horn Sonata. … This release should be heard by anyone interested in the repertory.
Mortimer H. Frank, International Record Review
 
The cellist Miklos Perényi and the pianist András Schiff combine a warm sound with a consistent sense of striving, a relish for dialogue and a wide colour range.
Stephen Pettitt, Sunday Times
 
Chez ECM, le classique a de beaux jours devant lui. La preuve avec cette intégrale des œuvres pour violoncelle et piano de Ludwig van Beethoven. L’équilibre est parfait entre le piano limpide d’András Schiff et le violoncelle terrien de Miklós Perényi. Sonates et variations s’envolent, s’imposent l’air de rien, sans inutiles coups d’éclat. Une référence incontournable.
Fabrice Gottraux, Tribune de Genève
 
Schiffs unangestrengt klarer Klavierton, seine technische Prägnanz und seine Fähigkeit, gleichsam sprechend zu phrasieren, trifft auf Perényis uneitle Noblesse, dessen virtuosen Spielwitz und imponierende Klangfarbenphantasie. So entstehen die frühen Sonaten sowohl aus der klavieristischen Brillanz des jungen Beethoven als auch aus dem Geist cellistischer Emanzipation. Perényi antwortet nicht nur selbstbewusst auf Schiffs pianistische Fragestellungen, sondern wird selbst zum geistvollen Inspirator. ... Für die späten Sonaten entwickeln Schiff und Perényi eine herbe, auch knorrige, doch stets klangreiche Vitalität. Und die Variationszyklen werden zu aufregenden Expeditionen ins Reich Beethovenscher Dialogkunst. Außerdem bieten Schiff / Perényi noch Beethovens Hornsonate Op. 17, die der Komponist selbst auf das Cello übertrug, mit solch überlegenem Parlando, dass man sich fragt, wieso dieses elegant-melodiöse Stück nicht zum festen Cellorepertoire zählt.
Harald Eggebrecht, Süddeutsche Zeitung
 
Mit Schiff und Perényi haben sich Meister ihres Instruments, Meister der musikalischen Rhetorik und der Konzentration gefunden. Es macht einfach staunen, mit welcher Prägnanz und kristallinen Klarheit Schiff den Klavierpart dieses Werkkomplexes darstellt, wie er ihn unter permanente Spannung setzt und seinen Strukturen durchleuchtet. Hier sind zwei Musiker zusammengekommen, deren Übereinstimmung ganz aus dem Inneren kommt; sie erreichen ein Maß an musikalischer und mentaler Nähe, die man kongenial nennen kann. ... Eine in ihrer Geschlossenheit und gestalterischen Tiefe faszinierende Neueinspielung, die auch klanglich keine Wünsche offen lässt.
Norbert Hornig, Fono Forum
 
Dass András Schiff, der sein pianistisches Metier gern in übergeordneten Zusammenhängen erkundet, ebendieses streckenweise experimentelle Konvolut attraktiv findet, verwundert nicht. Denn gerade Beethovens fünf Klavier-Cello-Sonaten zeigen die gleiche Entwicklung, welche die zweiunddreißig Klaviersonaten durchlaufen haben, die Schiff gerade chronologisch aufführt und aufnimmt. Und in dem Cellisten Miklós Perényi, wie er selbst gebürtiger Budapester, hat er schon vor Jahren einen gleichgestimmten Partner gefunden. Diese Vertrautheit ist jedem Takt der großartig beredten Beethoven-Einspielung anzumerken – im zwanglosen, doch jederzeit hellwachen Dialog, in dem jeder Ton, jede Farbe, jeder Akzent von Spielwitz, Klangphantasie, Tiefsinn und Aufsässigkeit spricht.
Ellen Kohlhaas, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung
 
Ein früher Händel-Verehrer war Beethoven. Der Pianist András Schiff und der Cellist Miklós Perényi wiederum sind Beethoven-Verehrer und haben nun dessen Gesamtwerk für Klavier und Cello eingespielt – von den ziemlich leichtgewichtigen Variationen über ein Thema aus Händels Oratorium „Judas Maccabäus“ bis zu den radikalen späten Sonaten. Das stilistische Spektrum ist enorm, die interpretatorische Haltung dagegen ausgesprochen kompakt. Mit schlankem, unpathetischem Klang spielen Schiff und Perényi, sicher im eigenen Ausdruck und vertraut im Dialog. Wo es sein muss, werden sie dramatisch oder gar schroff, wo es sein darf, auch einmal witzig. Beethoven war es ja auch.
Susanne Kübler, Tages-Anzeiger
 
Schiff und Perényi sind die Virtuosen der Empfindsamkeit, und sie sind, vor allem Schiff, die Inkorporation jenes imaginären instrumentalen Virtuosen, der Ende des 18. Jahrhunderts in die Welt hineinschaute, um sich bald darauf in ihr umzutun. Von einer Vitalität, von einer Frische des Zwiegesprächs und von einer schier visionären Energie ist diese Aufnahme, die einen förmlich hinfort reißt aus dem Alltag. Und man kann und will gar nicht begreifen, warum diese Beethoven’schen Werke für Klavier und Violoncello nicht weit häufiger den Konzertsaal erobern. „Welche Wonne, welche Lust!“, möchte man, unter Zuhilfenahme eines anderen Genies, auf der Stelle ausrufen.
Jürgen Otten, Rondo
 
 
 
“Beethoven’s five sonatas for piano and cello show in a nutshell the same evolution that the 32 piano sonatas show,” said András Schiff recently, in an American radio interview. “You have this wonderful young lion Beethoven in the opus 5 sonatas, you have the opus 69, the A major, which stands in the middle of his life, and then you have these wonderful two works, opus 102, which are at the gates of the late style, the last phase. And these are in a way experimental works, but fully crystallized.”

András Schiff’s decision to record Beethoven’s complete works for piano and cello is characteristic for a musician who has set himself the challenge of undertaking many complete cycles of works in his concert life. Recitals and special cycles including the major keyboard works of J.S. Bach, Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Chopin, Schumann and Bartók have long been an important part of his activities. A special focus in 2004, for instance, has been performance of the complete Beethoven Piano Sonatas in chronological order. For Schiff, this is a matter of “curiosity, and trying to see connections, to see the development and evolution of a composer in a certain genre. It’s a learning process I would like to share with my listeners.”

The works for piano and cello are realized here with Miklós Perényi. “There is a great affinity between us, coming from the same country and the same city, Budapest.” Five years his senior, Perényi’s status as “a wunderkind, a child prodigy” was a local legend when Schiff was growing up. Subsequently, Perényi was to become the favourite pupil of Pablo Casals; for András Schiff, his countryman is “the greatest cellist alive today”. Pianist and cellist have been chamber music partners for a long time now, intensifying their musical relationship during Schiff’s decade-long directorship of the Musiktage Mondsee and playing concerts together around the world.

There is no shortage of repertoire for cello and piano today, but when Beethoven wrote his opus 5 sonatas in 1796, at the age of 25, the instrumentation was still considered novel. Schiff feels that these are Beethoven’s “first very brilliant compositions”. In the opus 5 works, however, the cello and piano are not yet equal partners: “With all respect to the cello, these are very virtuoso piano parts that Beethoven played, these were really show pieces for himself. And the cello part is of course very demanding and very important but the piano carries the weight of the drama.” This puts a responsibility on a pianist: “You have to be not overpowering while still keeping the force and the weight.” The opus 5 pieces are distinct in character. Opus 5/1 sets out “to entertain in a very noble way. It’s youthful, this is a young Beethoven, and it’s full of life and also full of humour;” Opus 5/2 is “very dramatic and very dark in colour”, at least until its concluding rondo where the sun breaks through the clouds.

By the time Beethoven wrote the A major Sonata op. 69, in the winter of 1807/8, he was already on the other side of his so-called “middle period”, and in between the composing of the Fifth and Sixth Symphonies. His writing for the combination of cello and piano “had also evolved radically,” as Martin Meyer writes in the liner notes for this collection. Opus 69 proceeds dialectically; it is created out of contrasts that seem finally obliterated by the motoric energy of the concluding Allegro vivace. Meyer: “From the composer’s own declarations one could aptly cite here his expressed desire that his work be marked solely by a constant advance toward something new and different.”

In 1815 Beethoven composed the Sonatas Op. 102, the first of which he described as a “free Sonata”, meaning “that one should no longer try to rationalize the logic of its unconventional structure” (Meyer). Schiff describes the fugue in the final movement of Op. 102/2, as “still a puzzle after almost 200 years”. Its ‘modernity’ is extraordinary: “It’s still giving a hard time to listeners and performers because it makes no compromises. It’s very tough, yet it is beautifully conceived, it’s perfectly written. When we started this with Miklós Perényi, we really analyzed it, and sometimes just played it really slowly, just enjoying every moment and every little corner of it.”

Completing the double-CD programme are four works played less often: three sets of “Variations” for cello and piano from the “early” period, based respectively on themes from Mozart’s Magic Flute and Handel’s Judas Maccabeaus, and the “Horn Sonata” Op. 17, which was written originally for Bohemian waldhorn virtuoso Giovani Punto, who premiered the work together with Beethoven in 1800. The composer later revised the horn part for cello.
YEAR DATE VENUE LOCATION
2024 June 26 Elbphilharmonie Hamburg, Germany
2024 June 30 Château du Clos de Vougeot Burgund, France
2024 July 04 Palacio Carlos V Granada, Spain
2024 July 11 Kunstpalast Düsseldorf, Germany
2024 July 16 Pfarrkirche Lockenhaus, Austria
2024 July 23 Église de Verbier station Verbier, Switzerland
2024 July 25 Église de Verbier station Verbier, Switzerland
2024 July 27 Menuhin Festival- Kirche Saanen Gstaad, Switzerland
2025 May 18 Herkulessaal Munich, Germany
2025 May 19 Tonhalle Zurich, Switzerland