There are things we enjoy all our lives yet usually take for granted. Things like fresh air, clean water. And there’s something else we may take for granted: Music. While it might not jeopardize our physical health right away if it disappeared, it certainly would affect us emotionally.
Music stirs the emotions greatly and actually can affect the overall state of our health. That is one reason why a new album of Beethoven’s complete music for cello and piano has certainly stirred my emotional juices and added to the overall quality of my days.
I admit that for awhile until recently I had not been paying much attention to Beethoven’s cello sonatas and sets of variations. Granted, I am never unaware of the presence of the recordings of these works we have in the WDAV library. But, recently I feel cellist Matt Haimovitz and pianist Christopher O’Riley (host of public radio’s “From the Top” show), who have been touring the country performing Beethoven’s five cello sonatas and the three sets of variations, have taken these masterpieces to a whole new level.
The title of this new double CD set is, BEETHOVEN. Period. Just Beethoven. No elevated pyrotechnics for show-off’s sake. Read between the lines of the album’s title and you will find Matt Haimovitz with his beloved Venetian 1710 Goffriller cello outfitted with ox-gut strings and an early 19th-century rosewood tailpiece, and an equally precious bow from the same period. Christopher O’Riley plays an original 1823 Broadwood fortepiano. These are the types of instruments thoroughly familiar to Beethoven and his musician friends. Whatever inner processes Matt and Chris have developed, they have channeled themselves back to Beethoven and his time to give us a seemingly true sense of the performance sound Beethoven must have heard. Yes, the first two sonatas and the variations sets Beethoven wrote before he went deaf, so I certainly do imagine old Ludwig van hearing these truly authentic performances by Matt and Chris.
The Beethoven Sonatas hold an exalted place in the cello repertoire alongside Bach’s Solo Cello Suites, and these two powerful musicians remind us that we must not take these works for granted. And these remarkable performances will strengthen your overall sense of being. After all, it’s BEETHOVEN. Period.
Hear recent WDAV Performance/Chats by Matt Haimowitz and Christopher O’Riley: